Wikipedia talk:Verifiability/First sentence (April–August 2011)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search


Verifiability, NOT truth????[edit]

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.

After all the debate, the first phrase in the sentence is still very bad and very misleading and almost universally misunderstood to mean something else. "Verifiability" still refers to "likely truthful sources" and the phrase "NOT truth" still refers to the editors' personal idea of truth, not what's in the likely truthful sources (which, after all, is indeed likely to be true). But the phrase is still widely understood to mean that WP has no care about truth. Want to see an example from just today? See the last two comments here: [1].

Could we fix this, please? SBHarris 20:20, 15 April 2011 (UTC)

Actually, the comments you point us to seem to understand the policy quite well. Sources frequently disagree as to what the "Truth" is... and we have to take a neutral stance in such situations. Blueboar (talk) 20:46, 15 April 2011 (UTC)
If you think you're taking a neutral stance when you decide which sources are reliable (thus likely to contain truth), you're fooling yourself. Policy will never be so complicated as to determine this FOR you, and if it ever is, somebody on WP will still need to write the policy. There's no escaping this problem. So long as care about source quality, you care about truth, and thus cannot be neutral in that way. SBHarris 20:52, 15 April 2011 (UTC)
{Ec}I'm not sure I understand the problem. The excerpt which Sbharris quotes is about the ability to check whether the source says something or not. The reason why we don't care about the Truth is because people can argue endlessly over what's true. But checking to see if a source says something is a much easier debate to settle. A Quest For Knowledge (talk) 20:58, 15 April 2011 (UTC)
It is indeed, and that is why I've suggested in the past, that the WP:V policy ONLY address the sourcibility of material, not the source-reliability itself (which problem is properly the domain of WP:IRS). However, I have not been successful at this, and the opening statement of THIS policy gets into RS questions immediately (you are wrong, as the quote DOES say "reliable"). Worse still, WP:V (including the source-reliability part of it, which starts with the first words of it) is policy, whereas WP:IRS is merely a guideline. That's a problem. SBHarris 21:11, 15 April 2011 (UTC)
Well, we could remove the stuff about reliability from this policy and promote WP:IRS from a guideline to a policy, but why? I'm not sure what problem you're trying to address. Not to mention the huge amount of effort that will be required to gain concensus for such a change. A Quest For Knowledge (talk)
I'm trying to address the problem that this policy is misunderstood, and poorly stated, as above. I've been as succinct as I can be, and I'm getting nowhere. You say above that the policy doesn't mention reliability, when it plainly does. Clearly, then, its dismissal of "truth" doesn't mean dismissal of reliability, which has to do with truth. You yourself read the policy, and read it wrong, leaving out a word. Well, that happens to a lot of people. Do you not see this as a problem? I want a policy written so that people who read it can understand it. Is that not a clear statement of purpose?

If it is impossible to gain consensus to write an unclear policy so that it IS clear, then Wikipedia is broken. I have surmised this, but am not going to come to a firm conclusion until I've tried to fix it, using very small words.SBHarris 00:21, 17 April 2011 (UTC)

Sb, I don't mean this as a personal attack, but as an honest question... given that multiple editors are telling you essentially the same thing ... have you considered the possibility that perhaps you are the one who is misunderstanding the policy? The rest of us seem to have no problem with it. Blueboar (talk) 00:54, 17 April 2011 (UTC)
Um, you seem to be speaking on hehalf of a very large group of editors who have nowhere deputized you as their spokesman. Please note that since then (see below), a number of these people have managed to speak for themselves, and don't agree with you any more than I do.SBHarris 20:44, 17 April 2011 (UTC)
We're in an alternate universe here. Where "reliable" doesn't mean reliable. Let's see, does all of the wp:ver/wp:nor stuff have a purpose? Could that be to try to make Wikipedia content accurate? But then the policy opens by disparaging accuracy. First by using the word "truth" instead of accuracy (because, "truth" has other meanings, making it an easier to disparage word than accuracy) and then the lead disparages the concept of accuracy. North8000 (talk) 00:52, 17 April 2011 (UTC)
You know, I really understand the confusion here; it's a sad state of affairs. We have some editors with the (perfectly valid) concern that things which are not 'true' are being promoted as true. We have other editors with the (perfectly valid) concern that articles about unverified things are being misrepresented because the first groups is using inappropriate standards of truth for representing them. So for example: UFOs are not 'true' in the objective sense (at least, there's absolutely no evidence to indicate the presence of alien spaceships on this planet), but there is a lot of noteworthy babble about alien spaceships that ought to be documented properly in an encyclopedia (UFOs are a big interesting topic, despite the fact that they are not 'true'). So sourcing has become the battleground - people in the first group bang on the 'reliability' drum in order to exclude noteworthy babble and pad articles with 'objective' (i.e. reasonably skeptical) truth; people in the second group rely on 'verifiability is not truth' to add the noteworthy babble back in (because in all fairness the noteworthy babble is a lot more informative on topics like this than reasonable sources). The whole thing becomes dreadfully polarized.
In a perfect world, of course, the two groups would work together to produce a balanced, informative article. Now, everyone who thinks wikipedia is a perfect world, please add your signature below, so that you may be thoroughly stigmatized and ridiculed. Face-grin.svg
The upshot of this (at least within my wandering mind) is that we do not actually write articles based on sources. we write articles, and sources are a reality-check on us, so that our ignorance and opinionatedness doesn't get out of hand and skew the topic. Verifiability just means that we can demonstrate that what we are writing is a prevalent opinion in the real world and not our own imagining. Reliability just distinguishes between sources we can trust to be reasonable on a given topic and source that we have to take with a grain of salt. None of this should be approached in a legalistic, literalistic fashion, but should be used to encourage a generous application of common sense, and anyone who puts in too much time arguing about this from a legalistic, literalistic standpoint simply needs to be thoroughly wp:trouted, or possibly bludgeoned with cooked ramen noodles, until they cry 'uncle'.
The rant is ended; go in peace. --Ludwigs2 05:21, 17 April 2011 (UTC)

The problem stems from the fact that there are two valid things that people want to make the sentence "verifiability, not truth" to express, and the second has led to a simplistic reading of policy that is sometimes not appropriate:

It is not enough for something to be true to be included in the encyclopedia. It must also be "verifiable" in the technical sense of having been reported in a "reliable" source.
In the vast majority of cases, when something is "verifiable" in the technical sense of having been reported in a "reliable" source, it is true. Editors who claim, without evidence in "reliable" sources that it is not true anyway are often fringers and arguing with them about the truth is discouraged as a waste of time.
We automatically report everything that has been reported in a "reliable" source as true. The only way to prevent this is by finding an equally or more "reliable" source contradicting it, so that we have a formal reason to suppress or balance the claim.

The first is the original meaning of the phrase. The second is a historically grown secondary meaning. The third is a simplistic version of C which a substantial minority of editors subscribe to. Since B is a consensus interpretation and B and C agree in their results in the vast majority of contentious cases, it is natural for the fundamentalists who subscribe to C to believe that C is also a consensus interpretation of policy. But C is not a consensus interpretation as it can lead to problematic results. Some examples:

  1. Sometimes only fringers write about a topic, and some of those writings are uncritically reported by "reliable" sources. A says nothing about this case. B says nothing about the case. C says that the fringers win automatically once the New York Times has uncritically picked up a fringe claim and no other RS has contradicted it. This case is never a problem in practice, presumably because the editors who subscribe to C do so as a way of strengthening the B aspect and are not interested in promoting fringe.
  2. Sometimes a true fact has been reported but is simply not worth mentioning in an encyclopedia. My standard (possibly hypothetical, though probably real) example is Obama's shoe size. B does not speak about this case, but C does, and does so incorrectly. This becomes a problem in practice when editors are divided on whether it makes sense to include information and the editors supporting inclusion try to win on technical grounds by appealing to C.
  3. Very occasionally there is an overwhelming consensus among editors that something is certainly and unambiguously wrong, even though it was claimed in RS and not contradicted in other RS. An important example was when The Register reported about Wikipedia-internal affairs and got everything totally wrong, as our server logs proved beyond any doubt. See WP:Articles for deletion/Sam Blacketer controversy.
    A and B do not tell us anything about this situation. There are three main approaches in this case. The first two are reasonable. The third is not and can cause legal trouble. Unfortunately it has been supported in practice by very experienced editors who believe in C:
    • Ignore WP:V and write what we agree is the truth.
    • Follow our formal process and do not write about the incorrect report at all, regretting that we can't set it right.
    • Present the incorrect report as true or maybe, as a compromise, attribute it.

This problem keeps coming up. I brought it up recently with respect to a specific subscriber to C, but the discussion was closed for unrelated reasons before there was a clear consensus. Hans Adler 07:40, 17 April 2011 (UTC)

Hans, the problem with what you wrote is the reliance it has on 'truth'. It seems to me your point A is flawed. Whether or not something is actually true is irrelevant to it's inclusion in the encyclopedia; we should consider the extent to which something is accepted as true as a weighting factor, but we as editors are not qualified or entitled to judge its truthiness. This of course impacts on your point B: verifiability does not confirm 'truth', it confirms 'acceptance as truth', and there is a world or difference between those two phrases.
You're right about the problem with point C - people who look at this in a fundamentalist way conflate verifiability with truth and end up misusing policy in some silly, silly ways. But the confusion is deeper and more convoluted than you make it, I think. For an example, let me pick a book off my bookshelf (I've grabbed "Freud and Beyond", by Mitchell and Black, 1995 - an academic book from a minor publishing house), and choose a quote at random (e.g. first two lines of chapter 5):"Human beings, in Freud's account, are born at odds with their environment. They are wired the way Freud and his contemporaries understood animals to be, oriented towards pursuing simple pleasures with ruthless abandon." Now, here's what we can say about this quote, without stretching:
  • it is clearly verifiable in the simplistic sense (someone said it, and that can be easily checked by looking at the book).
  • It is clearly a reliable source in some sense of that term (Mitchell is faculty at NYU, and the publisher - basic books - is fairly well established, at least for textbooks)
However, this only scratches the surface of the source, and leaves a number of important questions at loose ends:
  • What were the authors writing about, and is this quote an important or incidental part of their argument?
  • Should this quote be considered true of psychoanalysis in general, or just an opinion of a small cohort of psychoanalysts?
  • Should this quote be considered true in the real world, or just true of psychoanalysis as a limited perspective?
The first point gets at whether we are simply verifying the quote or whether we are verifying the source (i.e. what was literally said vs. what the authors were trying to convey in the bigger picture). The second and third points get at the scope of verification (whether we are verifying this as a truth about the world, or a truth about psychoanalysis, or a truth about a small subgroup of psychoanalysts). Which level and scope we are trying to verify will be contingent on the article in question: i.e. we will come to different conclusions on an article about the human mind vs. an article about psychoanalysis vs. an article about the theories of Stephen A. Mitchell. It's all very contingent and contextual, and requires thought and common sense to apply; there is no way to construct a fast and ready rule to cover all situations. The fact of the matter is, we don't know what the 'truth-value' of psychoanalysis is in the greater world, and we don't know what the 'truth-value' of this source in the world of psychoanalysis is; how can we make broad, reified assessments of how 'reliable' this source is in such a condition? That's why I keep saying we should stop trying to evaluate the truth-value of topics at all and restrict ourselves to describing the topics as best we can in our best understanding of a reasonable context. It's the only way we're going to not make ourselves crazy. --Ludwigs2 09:35, 17 April 2011 (UTC)
I'm very impressed by this analysis; but I'm not sure how it translates into a position on what the first sentence of the policy should say. Are you defending the current wording, or would you suggest an improvement? (Same question to Hans and others.)--Kotniski (talk) 10:13, 17 April 2011 (UTC)
I don't mind the current wording so long as there is a clear consensus that to the extent that truth exists, an encyclopedia tries to approximate it. Policy must not be interpreted so as to do something that is diametrically opposed. Hans Adler 13:15, 17 April 2011 (UTC)
Ludwigs2, I am really not interested here in any deep matters where we have to get philosophical about the meaning of "truth". In the Sam Blacketer case it was all very simple. The Register claimed that ex-Arbitrator Sam Blacketer (they called him by his real name) had vandalised an article on a political opponent in the heat of an election campaign. Our server logs proved that he had actually removed vandalism. (Replacing a photo in which David Cameron looked as if he had a halo by an approved one.) The topic wasn't interesting enough for the quality press to investigate on their own, but interesting enough for part of the international press to pick up without investigating. The general public has the right to expect that Wikipedia does not write things about Wikipedia that Wikipedia knows to be false. Yet a number of editors argued seriously that we have to do precisely that, because what counts is verifiability NOT truth. Just read the deletion discussion.
The press was just guilty of carelessness. But we, since we knew it was false yet repeated the claims without relativisation (it took many days of heated discussion to get this stuff deleted) were guilty of libel in the legal sense of the word. (Presumably. Not sure who was actually guilty of it. I certainly wasn't because I was fighting to prevent it. I have asked Newyorkbrad to comment here; he may or may not have an opinion on this specific detail.) Hans Adler 13:20, 17 April 2011 (UTC)
I think I've touched upon this before somewhere else but this should have easily been dealt with if it was possible to refer to WP:IAR without the baggage currently associated with it. Lambanog (talk) 13:24, 17 April 2011 (UTC)
Who are you telling this? After this comment of mine it took 6 more days for the article to get deleted, and during that time the same editors who were arguing against deletion were also arguing against putting anything in the article that would have mitigated the effect, based on the argument that it was improper to use our knowledge of our own internal processes, and links to our servers, as sources for a BLP article. This should have been a no-brainer, but it wasn't. I want to make sure that next time this happens it is a no-brainer. Hans Adler 13:58, 17 April 2011 (UTC)
The "Verifiability not Truth" statement does not say (or mean) that if something is Verifiable, Wikipedia must include it (even if it is not True).
The statement does say (and means) the opposite... if something is not verifiable, Wikipedia should not include it (even if it is True).
Does this distinction clarify things? Blueboar (talk) 13:41, 17 April 2011 (UTC)
Of course it clarifies things. It's what I called A above. The problem is that about half of the community if not more is in love with B, which does not follow from A, and the distinction between B and C is not sufficiently clear in practice. Hans Adler 13:50, 17 April 2011 (UTC)

I've been asked to comment here. My views approximate those of Hans Adler. We appropriately require that information be verified by one or more reliable sources before it is included (and that a citation to the source be included, at least when a fact is questioned or disputed). This is a necessary condition for including a statement in a Wikipedia article.
But the fact that a piece of information is included in a source, even one that is normally considered highly reliable, is not a sufficient condition for including the information. An additional condition is that the editor inserting the information, or a consensus of editors if a dispute arises, believes that the information is actually accurate.
Much of the time, this additional condition can be disregarded, because by definition, reliable sources are accurate much more often than they are inaccurate. (If they were not, they would not be reliable sources!) But even the most reliable source will contain errors—whether the error rate for many would be higher or lower than the error rate on Wikipedia itself is an interesting question—and "reliable sources" must not be mistaken for "infallible sources." Sometimes there will be an error. When it is an obvious or a known error, we would be irresponsible in propagating it. (I am not dealing here with the exceptional case of reporting on the error itself, described as such.)
Perhaps one way of putting it is that verifiability of a plausible fact in a reliable source creates a presumption of truthfulness that allows the fact to be included in Wikipedia. But the presumption can be rebutted by other evidence that the fact is really false. This will most usually be a showing that other reliable sources are reporting contradictory information, but it can't be limited to that.
A statement such as "whether or not something is actually true is irrelevant to its inclusion on Wikipedia" does not, in my view, capture either what our editing policies are or what they should be. I can understand why such a comment would be made—we have too many people who believe that content should include what they think is true, no matter how many sources or how strong a consensus points in a different direction. That is not acceptable and it is not something I am endorsing here, at all. But the other extreme of simply abjuring any interest in getting the facts accurate is also unacceptable, and if taken literally (I don't think it was likely meant as such, at least in its extreme form), would be an exceptionally irresponsible attitude for one of the world's most visited websites. Newyorkbrad (talk) 19:37, 17 April 2011 (UTC)

I think (or hope) that everyone here agrees with what you say Brad. What I think we disagree on is whether the statement "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." accurately (and/or adequately) sums up this concept.
My personal take is that it does sum the concept up accurately (so I oppose removal or changing it)... but it may not be adequate (ie, it may need expansion to clarify.) Blueboar (talk) 20:14, 17 April 2011 (UTC)
The phrase "threshold for inclusion" means that verifiability is a necessary condition. It's sometimes a sufficient condition too. That depends on context, editorial judgment, common sense, how NPOV is being interpreted, and how many sources are competing for inclusion. What this policy describes is the necessary condition, no more. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 00:26, 18 April 2011 (UTC)
How often does this problem actually occur? I'm hard-pressed to remember an occasion where an editor knowingly insisted on inserting factually inaccurate information on the grounds that it was verifiable. A Quest For Knowledge (talk) 20:20, 17 April 2011 (UTC)
The ethnic composition of Latin America is the case that comes to mind. Various Latin American countries use definitions of "white" and "black" that defy common usage, and various editors have fought to their indefinite blocks "correcting" the census reports. There's no doubt that the censuses are false, but they wind up in every country's articles anyway. No one seems happy saying "we know this country cooks the books, therefore we won't report any census information for it".—Kww(talk) 20:36, 17 April 2011 (UTC)
Jimbo Wales allowed his own incorrect birth date to remain in his article for a while, just as hair-shirt, since reliable sources had printed it wrong. Then, I think he changed his mind and took off the shirt. Does that count?

I think it rarely happens that editors insert (without qualifiers of any kind) information that they personally think is unfactual. Usually you find them saying something like "A believes B (cite), but others do not.(cite)" That's fair. Often you can tell in an article which belief the article-writers are skeptical of. That doesn't bother me on WP (any more than in an academic course) so long as the cards are on the table.

I think what the opening statement of WP:V means to say, is that the threshhold of inclusion in WP is either the writer's belief that the statement is correct (when it is not controversial) OR that belief PLUS a citation to a reliable source, when it IS controversial or non-obvious. A lot of WP consists of non-controversial statements of fact that aren't cited because they don't need to be, so there are obviously different threshholds of includablity. A rewrite of this is needed. SBHarris 20:44, 17 April 2011 (UTC)

lol - well, while I largely agree with everyone here, I still believe there are some broad confusions because of the range of things thisx text is supposed to cover. just to list things out the kinds of issues where I've seen it used, we have:
  • Editors inserting material they know is counter-factual (rare, and usually handled by vandalism and BLP policies)
  • Editors inserting material from sources which have obviously made an error (as in Hans' 'Sam Blacketer' example).
  • Editors inserting material from sources which have likely lied (as in Kww's 'Ethnic Composition' example).
  • Editors inserting material from sources which have made valid statements about something that is itself likely untrue (a frequent occurrence on fringe articles).
  • Editors inserting material where the editors misunderstand or misuse the source (e.g. quote-mining, which happens to some extent or another on any contentious page).
Have I missed any? Writing a single opening line that covers all of these adequately without stepping on the toes of any of them is and artistic challenge... --Ludwigs2 21:19, 17 April 2011 (UTC)
(ec) Sb, when a non-controversial fact is added without citation, that simply means the fact is not verified (in the article)... it does not mean the fact is not verifiable. The initial threshold for inclusion is that the fact be verifiable. As a second step, we then go on to say that it must actually be verified (in the article, by adding a citation) if challenged or likely to be challenged. Blueboar (talk) 21:21, 17 April 2011 (UTC)
Ludwigs, yes you missed one... Editor inserting controversial material from sources that disagree with the sources some other editors have read. All too often, both sides will argue that their sources are reliable and stating the Truth, while the other side's sources are unreliable, incorrect, misrepresenting the facts, lying etc. Blueboar (talk) 21:28, 17 April 2011 (UTC)

The fact that this policy is written in a way to downplay arriving at accuracy, and the related things that in dominoes such into (basically source criteria that somethings has little relation to reliability on the task at hand) comes up extensively. It becomes fodder for wiki-lawyering warfare (and avoiding accurate coverage) wherever there is a an article where there is a RW clash. The current rules and policies are a failure on all of those. North8000 (talk) 21:30, 17 April 2011 (UTC)

Given that there will be strong opposition to any major change to the language of the policy (some of it valid and some of it of the knee-jerk variety), can you suggest a way forward? Blueboar (talk) 21:41, 17 April 2011 (UTC)
I'm trying to work on more organized supporting analysis and ideas, (I could give you a link but it's still to ragged / unfinished to get spotlit)....but in vague terms:
  • The opening statement should be changed to keep everything about verifiability without throwing in the swipe which disses accuracy. Such was discussed/consensused a few months ago but reverted by one of the owners of wp:ver when put in, saying it was not discussed enough. So then when it was floated for a longer time on the talk page (as I recall) that owner split it in half via manual archiving and then manually archived the remainder of the discussion (both before the bot did them), so now it is gone.
  • Add two source strength metrics (objectivity and knowledge regarding the fact the cited it) to the two existing ones (the editing layer ["RS"] and primary/secondary/tertiary aspect), define the "strength of the source for the cite" as the combination of these. And say that the strength of the source/cite must be commensurate with the situation. Challenged/questioned statements need stronger sourcing, and vica versa.
There's two of a couple more....thanks for asking. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 22:11, 17 April 2011 (UTC)
I edit a lot of articles on or related to fringe theories and I'm skeptical. The last thing I want is to give ammo to those promoting fringe theories to claim that reliable sources are wrong and we should follow The Truth. A Quest For Knowledge (talk) 22:29, 17 April 2011 (UTC)
I'm with you 100%. I think that it may not be clear that my ideas are also with you 100%. Step one is to get rid of the word "truth" because 1/2 of the time "truth" means somebody's belief rather than objective accuracy (for those cases where such exists). North8000 (talk) 22:47, 17 April 2011 (UTC)
We're all a bunch of anonymous editors, right? This means that we can't use authority to determine what is true or not. That's why we have to go by verifiability as the inclusion standard. I've participated in some controversial topic areas in Wikipedia, apart from it often being a miserable experience, one thing I've noticed is that editors will argue over the credibility of the sources. In one case, I experienced several editors arguing, much to the annoyance of the regulars at the reliable sources noticeboard, that the New York Times couldn't be used as a source in a "science" article. In my opinion, therefore, I think the statement at the top of this thread could be made even stronger by adding something like, "Wikipedia editors, because of anonymity, cannot decide matters of truth by authority, and therefore must use verifiability as the baseline standard for inclusion" or something like that. Cla68 (talk) 22:55, 17 April 2011 (UTC)
If the NYT is at odds with peer-reviewed secondary sources specialising in a given area, then it should either not be included or included in a subjective way "NYT reports that...." so it is not as simple as that, which is why we are humans judging and not computers systematically entering all referenced data. Casliber (talk · contribs) 00:03, 18 April 2011 (UTC)
The sun being above the horizon is a necessary condition for direct sunlight; but it is not a sufficient condition, because something else may be casting a shadow (copied from Necessary and sufficient condition).

PS: I guess I should add my voice to those who are unhappy with the wording of the first sentence - the implied general meaning for me seems to be that there are two divergent endpoints "verified/verifiable material" and some core "truth" (a la Kuhn maybe?). Whereas I imagine this much more as verifiability as a means to an end to get to some consensually-understood truth. It's the "not truth" which is the problem in implied meaning.

I guess I'd much rather something like "Verifiability is the route taken to transform unverified (mainspace) content into reliably-referenced and checked (encyclopedic) content" With a caveat "One may be surprised that one's understanding may diverge from a presupposed understanding as one uncovers and reviews source material"

(We can then get all gushy and 70s-like and delight in the embracing of knowledge at this point...hehehe) Casliber (talk · contribs) 00:14, 18 April 2011 (UTC)

I like your second sentence. I'm not embarrassed to admit that in editing I've sometimes found that what I thought to be true was not exactly the same as what was in the sources. Cla68 (talk) 00:52, 18 April 2011 (UTC)
I also like that second sentence....actually beyond like. It is a statement of how the 90% of Wikipedia works works. Although I would tweak it slightly, During the 90%, the editors, in consensus, decide on it based on the integration of 500 sources that their understanding came from. And then they take what they decided and source it and put it in. During the other 10% (basically the contentious failure articles) the wiki-lawyering blocks this process when it does not have their preferred result, noting that the process that makes 90% of Wikipedia work is a violaiton of the rules, if taken literally and in a vacuum. North8000 (talk) 01:06, 18 April 2011 (UTC)
That the threshold for inclusion is verifiability, not truth, is a very simple idea. It means verifiability is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for inclusion. An invitation to the party is a necessary condition for inclusion, but if you turn up drunk and threaten to strangle the hostess, the invitation alone will not ensure your admittance, i.e. an invitation is not a sufficient condition. I think it's important not to make this idea more complicated that it has to be.
In many of our articles, verifiability is a sufficient condition too, just as an invitation to the party is going to get you inside 99 percent of the time. This policy can't substitute for the editorial judgment required on the page to decide whether a source is also authoritative enough, appropriate enough, and so on. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 01:04, 18 April 2011 (UTC)
I am sorry, I just had to read your post a couple of times and I still am unclear about the point yuo're making, and hence I think the way it is laid out is obfuscating rather than clarifying the issue. Slimvirgin do you agree or disagree that the way it is presented now tends to artificially diverge truth and verifiability and imply that verifiability is an end rather than a means to an end? Casliber (talk · contribs) 01:37, 18 April 2011 (UTC)
I'm not completely sure what you mean, Cas, about a means to an end. When I cite John Rawls as a source for the concept of justice-as-fairness, there is no issue of "truth". The question is only whether Rawls is an appropriate source. When I cite U.S. government sources on Bradley Manning, the question is whether the U.S. govt is an appropriate source, because who on earth knows what "the truth" is.
When you write an undergraduate essay or MA thesis, the aim is not to reveal "the truth," but to offer an overview of the appropriate literature, and that's what WP articles seek to do. We cite sources who are notable, or authoritative, or honest, or well-known, or widely read, or carefully checked, or important, or appropriate, or respected—and we use the word "reliable" as a shortcut for that amalgam of attributes. Being able to "verify" our material against one of those sources (i.e. check that one of those sources published what we want to publish) is the threshold for inclusion, the necessary condition for inclusion—the invitation to the party. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 02:22, 18 April 2011 (UTC)
Cas, another way of looking at this: to mix up truth and verifiability is to make a category mistake. Looking at an issue in your area, imagine someone asked you to write an essay on the difference between the concepts of mental illness, personality disorder, and neurological damage. You'd explain the differences between the categories, you'd explain the history of how they developed, you'd explain the legal and philosophical differences, the different approaches between disciplines, according to sources who work in appropriate fields. Then imagine you had someone shouting as you were writing, "Yes, but what is the truth? Which of these ideas is true? Which of them is correct?" It would be meaningless.
None of us can know whether 5.9 or 6.1 million Jews died in the Holocaust, or whether it was four or 10 million. We can't know, we can never know, we have no realistic way of finding out. So we have a bunch of names of scholars we trust—people in mainstream institutions, where it's hard to get a job—who say they've read the original documents, and we repeat what they say. That's for the most part what scholarship is; it's knowing who the trusted sources are. Yes, at some point, an approximation to "truth" is the aim—a convergence of trusted narratives—but that's a complex philosophical idea within historiography, and there's no way we can get involved in discussing it in a Wikipedia policy. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 02:40, 18 April 2011 (UTC)
@SV - I'll try not to intersperse but answer bits and pieces. When I write I am mindful of the subject as a whole, so that impacts on how I look at further bits of information and how they integrate with the whole. Luckily for the most part, the quality of the sources speak for themselves, so integrating as a whole is not a problem. But (for instance) where a source contrasts with other material will heighten the need for qualifying that source. For instance, in medicine, we'd often state a Review Article as fact "treatment X is effective for disease Y" BUT we might have to qualify that in a number of circumstances - e.g. a large high quality and highly publicised meta-analysis (technically a primary source, but maybe picked up by newspapers, gov'ts etc - hence we might review article to say "Medical consensus has been that treatment X is effective for disease Y (ref here), however a new meta-analysis....." - so to answer, no, I could see a case where the presence or absence of other high quality material may impact on how we ref US gov't sources on Manning. Regarding "the truth", ultimately, yeah there is an unknowable truth we can never know (e.g. a ruler cannot measure exactly 30.000000000000000 cm), but it doesn't mean we don't try to give an accurate picture of the subject as possible. Note that this needn't be a preconceived idea on the part of the editor but develops as one reads and processes sources. (i.e. inaccurate =/= wrong, which seems to be a distinction that needs making here. For instance, re difference between the concepts of mental illness, personality disorder, and neurological damage - yes all are different paradigms and none repreresents "The Truth", but it is up to me to be able to explain the strengths and weaknesses of each paradigm (complex but not insurmountable). Casliber (talk · contribs) 04:58, 18 April 2011 (UTC)
Did you notice that the word threshold does not occur in the title of this section? That's not because it misrepresents the problem, but because most of the time when someone mentions "verifiability, not truth" the word is not used at all. And quite a few editors will deny that the "threshold" language means anything like you and I think it means. To me that's an indication that the snappy language stands in the way of understanding. I don't care how we fix this, so long as we fix it.
Editorial judgement is another problem, and a related one. A lot of editors have no judgement at all and try to substitute wikilawyering for it. WP:Editorial judgement is a redlink. I am afraid it wouldn't even help as a guideline. It would have to be a policy so that wikilawyers cannot continue to claim that exercising editorial judgement is against policy without risking a block. There is this absurd idea that Wikipedia is not written by (more or less) intelligent people who read and understand the sources, but that some kind of automatic writing is going on that turns policy pages + reliable sources into an encyclopedia, with humans playing a role analogous to that of electrons in a computer. Hans Adler 01:49, 18 April 2011 (UTC)
Agree. I don't think that anybody is challenging the verifiability content of the beginning of the policy. The question is, why the heck does the lead of a core policy have to add wording that insults the idea of striving for accuracy? First by substituting the ambiguous, straw-man-ishly multi-meaning word "truth" for accuracy, and then, in a phrase that we know always gets quoted out of context as the (mistakenly) mission statement of Wikipedia: "not truth" = "not accuracy" North8000 (talk) 02:00, 18 April 2011 (UTC)

We still seem not to have resolved the problem(s) we had when we discussed this a few weeks ago - we "know" that "the threshold" is supposed (in this case, at least) to mean a necessary rather than a sufficient condition; but (a) how do we expect readers to guess that this is how we mean it? and why force them to make such a guess when we could easily reword the sentence to resolve that ambiguity; and (b) by writing in big bold letters not truth we imply that truth is not a relevant consideration, thus leading to the absurdities of people wanting to knowingly repeat libel and so on, as in the case described above (and in other less dramatic situations, where the falsehood isn't a libel, but is still not wanted in our encyclopedia). Can we really not improve the wording of this sentence so as to make it clearer what we mean by it and what our motivation really is?--Kotniski (talk) 09:37, 18 April 2011 (UTC)

(ec)A bit of history... When we added the Verifiability not Truth clause, we were trying to combat a persistent problem: POV pushing editors adding unverifiable material based on the argument that it was "true". The current language settled that persistent problem that very well. We determined that such material should not be included, and created a statement that says so clearly and bluntly. We want to keep that clear statement.
What we are discussing now is a different issue... what to do about editors adding untrue (inaccurate) material based on the argument that it is verifiable. This is a much thornier issue. Blueboar (talk) 13:40, 18 April 2011 (UTC)
Agree, ok, let's have a poll and get some numbers: Casliber (talk · contribs) 12:52, 18 April 2011 (UTC)

Poll: Misleading opening statement[edit]

  • For whatever reason, this statement, "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 problematic and needs to be rewritten:


  1. . Casliber (talk · contribs) 12:52, 18 April 2011 (UTC)
  2. For too long, this wording has been used to justify the deliberate inclusion of information known to be incorrect. It needs rethinking. User:Short Brigade Harvester Boris (talk) 14:06, 18 April 2011 (UTC)
  3. Yes, there are multiple problems with it, as noted in previous discussions - it's only acceptable if you happen to know what it's trying to say, and it is intended (obviously) to be read and understood by people who don't know beforehand what it's trying to say.--Kotniski (talk) 14:36, 18 April 2011 (UTC)
  4. The only reason for keeping this misleading sentence would be if there were no good alternatives. However, it is very easy to think of alternative formulations that do an even better job of making clear that we're after the truth as can be distilled from reliable sources, here on Wikipedia. Count Iblis (talk) 14:50, 18 April 2011 (UTC)
  5. Verifiability requirements can be strongly stated without double-dissing the concept of accuracy. The first diss is using the straw-man problematic word "truth" instead of "accuracy" and second by inserting the "not" statement in the lead sentence. North8000 (talk) 15:06, 18 April 2011 (UTC) (moved from below Unscintillating's comment) The lead states with emphasis that what we want is "not truth", and so that is what we are getting. (Unscintillating said it well) Time for a change! North8000 (talk) 00:28, 25 April 2011 (UTC)
  6. Weak support as I am not sure that rewriting it is the only way of solving the problem. Actually we have two problems: (1) Editors who really and honestly believe that we should make Wikipedia say something that we know is not true. Just because reliable sources agree it is true and we want to be consistent. (2) Editors who pretend to be of type (1) when it fits their agenda. It saves them from agreeing with a consensus that they cannot plausibly disagree with.
    Both problems are relatively rare but should be addressed. I don't care whether this is done by changing the text or by adding a clear explanation that (1) is not the intended meaning. Maybe neither is needed, but just a strong consensus in this discussion, to which we can then point whenever the matter comes up again. Hans Adler 16:21, 18 April 2011 (UTC)
  7. Support. "Verifiability" to this point hasn't even been defined in terms of whether a reliable source has actually been cited, or whether a reliable source could easily be found and cited ("Abraham Lincoln was an important figure in the American Civil War."). Moreover, the world "truth" in the phrase not truth has been perverted: it apparently refers to NOT an editor's idea of truth if it cannot (even in theory) be supported by a reliable source. Which is an extremely odd use of the word "truth," and a very bad way to use it. The concept invoked is something like "a personal controversial version of truth in the WP editors' mind, that could not be supported with a reliable source." THAT is what WP deprecates, but calling that thing "truth" is an abomination, and an insult to truth. WP does seek truth (what good is an encyclopedia that does not?) It just doesn't seek "personal truth." Editors are asked to keep that to themselves.SBHarris 18:58, 18 April 2011 (UTC)
  8. Suggest shortening to "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," dropping the words "not whether editors think it is true", because I've seen them misused to dismiss demonstrably well-founded concerns about source accuracy. See #Proposal 2, below. --JN466 16:21, 19 April 2011 (UTC)
  9. The lead states with emphasis that what we want is "not truth".  This is what we are getting in the encyclopedia, "not truth".  Unscintillating (talk) 00:01, 25 April 2011 (UTC)
  10. Support - The problem isn't with truth being in Wikipedia, everyone wants that. The problem is with what some editors think is true, which may in fact be FALSE. The phrase "verifiability, not truth" is misleading. Remove the "not truth" part. The phrase "not whether editors think it is true" at the end of the sentence is correct and right on the mark. Also, "The threshold" is ambiguous and may mean it's enough to just to be verifiable in order to be included in Wikipedia, which is definitely not correct and everyone here agrees that verifiability alone is not enough to be included in Wikipedia. There's NPOV, etc. This can be fixed by changing "The threshold" to "A requirement" or "A minimum requirement". Please see Proposal 4 below. (talk) 14:13, 27 April 2011 (UTC)
  11. Support—Truth is too subjective anyways, and has been used by the fringers to their benefit. OrangeMarlin Talk• Contributions 00:02, 2 May 2011 (UTC)
  12. The word "threshold" is problematic, at least.—S Marshall T/C 23:07, 30 May 2011 (UTC)
  13. For what it's worth. The Blade of the Northern Lights (話して下さい) 01:52, 18 June 2011 (UTC)
  14. Support. For years I have wondered why it seemed to be saying that it didn't matter if something was true or false. I was sure it didn't mean that, but it is a clumsy way to say what I think it means. This is a core policy that that new editors should read, and they might not read far down the page, so the first sentences are critical. To be told "not truth" is confusing to me, let alone new editors. "Not truth" can be explained (in rather more words) further down the page. Nothing puzzles me more about Wikipedia than that this wording has persisted so long. Bizarre, frankly. Opponents of changing it should put themselves in the shoes of the average novice editor and look at it with fresh eyes. Nurg (talk) 00:40, 25 June 2011 (UTC)
  15. Support: The current wording is misleading, and might indicate to some people that we don't care whether or not we are including untrue information, or that we aren't striving for factual accuracy. What does the "not truth" add, really? We are trying to tell people that even if they "know" something to be true, they still must cite a reliable source. However, the instruction "Always cite a reliable source.", is inclusive of the situation where you know something to be true. It says that you always must cite a source. Therefore any statements that say "Even when ..." are extraneous. Why don't we just get rid of "not truth" altogether, and tell people that everything has to have a source, period? If someone tries to add something without a source, and says "But it's true!", then we can say "Doesn't matter. WP:V says you must always have a source." The "not truth" part is unnecessary. ~ Mesoderm (talk) 06:50, 28 June 2011 (UTC)
  16. Support: Verifiability is a means for Truth and an encyclopedia is mainly for truth, not for sources. Search machines are mainly for sources. Alkis0 (talkcontribs) 18:22, 30 June 2011 (UTC)


  1. . It's neccesary to mention that debates for inclusion don't depend on whether something is true or not. Truth is highly subjective, and endlessly arguable. Verifiabilty can be easily checked. If we imply that truth is a matter of consideration in our decision making process, we will encourage original research, endless arguments, and walls of text. We'll never reach consensus on anything. LK (talk) 13:09, 18 April 2011 (UTC)
  2. I fear that changing this wording opens the door to unwarranted promotion of fringe theories which is still a major problem here at Wikipedia. In fact, the latest Quarterly Newsletter of the Association for Skeptical Enquiry[2] discusses the problem and actually recommends people stay away from Wikipedia because of the difficulty in dealing with fringe theories. Let's face it. There's a good reason why we don't care about The Truth©: people can argue endlessly over what's true but checking to see if a source says something is a much easier debate to settle. A Quest For Knowledge (talk) 13:48, 18 April 2011 (UTC)
  3. I don't think the statement itself is problematic, and I don't think it should be removed or changed... However, I think the explanation of it may be incomplete. As written, it correctly excludes unverifiable information, even if it is "true". What it is missing is a follow up statement on what to do about clearly untrue (or inaccurate) information that happens to be verifiable. Blueboar (talk) 13:48, 18 April 2011 (UTC)
  4. Nothing's broken as far as I can see. --Nuujinn (talk) 16:07, 18 April 2011 (UTC)
  5. I expect to need the words "threshold" + "verifiability, not truth" in the foreseeable future. My evolving intensity of preference is informed by lessons learned the hard way. --Tenmei (talk) 17:36, 18 April 2011 (UTC)
  6. There's nothing wrong with the current wording, and changing it will open the floodgates to every crank who thinks they know the TRUTH™. Even now we are inundated with them, but this wording at least helps mitigate the worst of it. Jayjg (talk) 22:54, 18 April 2011 (UTC)
  7. The idea that "verifiability, not truth" is the threshold for inclusion is widely used and well-understood on Wikipedia. Some people here are saying there have been attempts to insert material known to be false because of it, but I've personally never seen an example of that in over six years of regular editing; and if such examples do exist, they are rare. For the most part, the idea makes clear to editors that what we do on Wikipedia is supply a survey of the relevant literature, regardless of our personal views. That's not just a means to an end (where what we're really doing is aiming for "truth"), as others have argued. Offering a good summary of the appropriate literature is an end-in-itself. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 01:24, 19 April 2011 (UTC)
  8. Wording is fine. Like I've said before, Wikipedia's policies don't currently allow individual editors to assert personal authority over what is true or not. We're only allowed to declare something as true if it says so in a reliable, verifiable source. Therefore, verifiability trumps whatever we personally feel to be true. Cla68 (talk) 02:08, 19 April 2011 (UTC)
  9. It's fine, and we understand what it means. (Those who don't can be pointed at Wikipedia:Verifiability, not truth.) And if you need to see the problems with demanding that articles present "the Truth™", then I recommend that you spend a while hanging out at articles about mental illness, where people occasionally name "personal experience" as a "citation" for claims about (for example) the laws for involuntary commitment in their home countries. There's an ongoing dispute in articles related to saturated fat about whether the mainstream view (eating a lot of saturated fat is bad for the heart) has been completely wrong for decades. WhatamIdoing (talk) 02:31, 25 April 2011 (UTC)
  10. The statement is fine because "the truth" can only be proven via verifiable reliable sources. Anyone can go and claim that something is not "true" and remove it from an article even if it's well sourced, that's why wikipedia is not about truth. --Enric Naval (talk) 13:37, 27 April 2011 (UTC)
  11. As has been said above, surely better than I can say it, the present wording is fine. As "truth" so often depends on the viewpoint of the speaker, we have to use the standard of whether or not something can be verified from a "reliable source", and "threshold" is a succinct way of saying that verifiability is a condition that must be met for inclusion in Wikipedia, but doesn't guarantee inclusion. -- Donald Albury 09:34, 4 May 2011 (UTC)
  12. Per SlimVirgin, Blueboar, et al. --causa sui (talk) 19:33, 16 June 2011 (UTC)
  13. IT is core to the encyclopedia. As the community grows, more people will come not understanding this core principle, and not encountering lots of people to explain it to them. Misunderstanding core policy is an inevitable consequence of growth. The solution is not to change the policy that has contributed so much to WP's success and credibility, but to explain it better and to promote it more consistently. Slrubenstein | Talk 01:08, 17 June 2011 (UTC)
  14. Oppose per the above. And if it is used to "justify the deliberate inclusion of information known to be incorrect," then that would need to be addressed elsewhere (and I agree that it should be addressed, if not judged as outright vandalism!). This part of policy is very clear and needs to be strongly stated as it now is. Dreadstar 03:13, 17 June 2011 (UTC)
  15. Oppose. It says exactly what it means. It has the added value that it is shocking, and makes the reader start to think. And it has years of use and tradition. BECritical__Talk 08:04, 17 June 2011 (UTC)
  16.  — V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 05:07, 28 June 2011 (UTC)


  • As above, my beef is that it creates an artificial dichotomy of truth and verifiability as distinct endpoints (which they are), but what needs to be emphasised is verifiability is a means to an end. Casliber (talk · contribs) 12:52, 18 April 2011 (UTC)
Comment: Amplifying Casliber's opinion, please consider these factors. --Tenmei (talk) 17:56, 18 April 2011 (UTC)
  • Some people above seem to be under the impression that "verifiability" (or "whether a source says something") is an objective matter. It isn't, of course - determining whether a source is "reliable" in a given instance is no less a subjective process than determining whether a given statement is "true" (in fact it quite often comes down to the same thing - we conclude that a source is unreliable if the statements it's making appear not to be true). And pushers of fringe theories can exploit verifiability too - by insisting that the sources that support their viewpoints are just as reliable as those that oppose them (or even making WP reproduce claims from fringe sources as the truth, just because no-one happens to have found a mainstream source that specifically contradicts the claims in question).--Kotniski (talk) 14:46, 18 April 2011 (UTC)
Comment: Responding to the above and answering Kotniski's question here: Yes, we can not improve the wording of a significant sentence by deleting the key words "threshold" + "verifiability, not truth". The word "threshold" implies movement and the beginning of a process. This conceptual "threshold" emphasizes the pivotal distinction between (a) a fact which supported by WP:V + WP:RS and (b) a mere factoid which is associated with zero cited confirming support. Adopting Kotniski's words from an archived thread: yes, "in actual fact we do care about the truth of statements and don't mindlessly copy apparent errors from sources"; but this concern only addresses one of a series of plausible follow-up questions. This survey is about averting consequences which attend throwing out the baby with the bath water. --Tenmei (talk) 17:03, 18 April 2011 (UTC)
Couldn't "threshold" just as likely imply the end of a process? Passing a literal threshold means you've entered the house - you're home, dry, and can finally relax in front of the snooker. (And of course something doesn't become a "fact" by virtue of being supported by "reliable sources", or a "factoid" by not being so supported - I don't really know what you're trying to say with that.)--Kotniski (talk) 17:48, 18 April 2011 (UTC)
Q.E.D. -- compare what Blueboar wrote here. --Tenmei (talk) 19:08, 18 April 2011 (UTC)
  • What about "Verifiability: The only practical way to approximate the objective truth"? Count Iblis (talk) 14:59, 18 April 2011 (UTC)
  • Poll Results: After a week, it seems clear that the poll on this proposal is coming down to "no consensus", with roughly equal support and oppose views expressed. This usually means we default to "Keep as is". Do we need to continue, or shall we accept that the proposal is not going to be adopted? Blueboar (talk) 14:36, 27 April 2011 (UTC)
    • I'd be happy if people could see that they've lost when they plainly have... but I know that my own optimism and faith in my fellow editors sometimes prevents me from seeing such things myself when I'm on the other side. Consequently, I think we can reasonably expect another week of time-wasting arguments here. WhatamIdoing (talk) 03:39, 29 April 2011 (UTC)
      • Indeed. As previous proposals have been retrieved from the archives and restored to the page, I'm restoring this poll too. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 11:33, 20 May 2011 (UTC)

We go with the source
of course of course
and no one may judge when the source is horse
that is of course unless the source is just inside your head
So go straight to the source and if it's horse
that's simply the info you must endorse
we're always on a steady course
repeating what's been said...
screwing with your head.
BECritical__Talk 18:16, 17 June 2011 (UTC)


Here is the previous proposal. Maybe just a baby step compared to the possibilities here, but I think that it also addresses / avoids most of the issues which the opposed folks have:

replace the entire first (one sentence) paragraph with:

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

Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 17:42, 18 April 2011 (UTC)

That's an improvement, but it still retains most of the problems - by using the definite article with "threshold" it implies there's a single necessary and sufficient condition; it overemphasizes readers' ability to check; and the material itself doesn't have to have been published (and indeed probably shouldn't have been) but only to be supportable by what's been published.--Kotniski (talk) 17:52, 18 April 2011 (UTC)
Agree, and there was a detailed discussion of the "threshold" word at the time. "a requirement" would be more accurate. The above was just a "baby step" in the right direction. And the "baby step" aspect making it easier to make the change. North8000 (talk) 19:21, 18 April 2011 (UTC)
Geez, WP seems totally besotted and enamoured with this word "threshold." As though getting rid of it was like somebody was going to carry your bride across the doorway FOR you and then close the door. Get over it! You guys who like the word that much, should get a room with it. ;) SBHarris 20:05, 18 April 2011 (UTC)
People do like the word "threshold"... and they like the phrasing "Verifiability, not Truth". I realize that a few of you think the wording is problematic, but the simple fact is... every time someone has tried to change this sentence, it meets with strong opposition from those who very much want to keep it. I think you would face less opposition (and possibly even gain a consensus) if we retained the sentence, and concentrated on explaining it more clearly. Blueboar (talk) 20:20, 18 April 2011 (UTC)
"People like..." shouldn't be the way our pages get written. It should be "People are able to argue convincingly for..." At the moment the argument seems to be that we should retain the misleading phrasing because we don't know of enough actual situations where it has caused problems (of course, any number of such situations we can describe will never be "enough"), and because some people find it useful as a weapon in disputes (whereas if they're right, there are plenty of other policy statements they could use equally well, if they really aren't capable of formulating their own arguments).--Kotniski (talk) 10:02, 19 April 2011 (UTC)

Why not use another phrase which is more self-explanatory and cut out the middle man? Most of the people who want to retain the phrase, want to retain it for the wrong reasons: they want to beat some other editor over the head by saying "we don't care about truth on WP". Getting rid of it will fix that immediately. SBHarris 20:28, 18 April 2011 (UTC)

To be perfectly pedantic, the proper word here is 'criteria', e.g. "Verifiability in a primary criteria for the inclusion of material on wikipedia...". I'm just sayin'... --Ludwigs2 22:12, 18 April 2011 (UTC)
To be even more perfectly pedantic, the proper word is criterion, singular. The Spirit of Neutrality and Truth (talk) 22:23, 18 April 2011 (UTC)
Yes, typo: I'd originally written 'one of the primary criteria', but forgot to change the word when I rewrote the phrase. --Ludwigs2 05:23, 19 April 2011 (UTC)

Rather than "truth", I guess what we are aiming for is a comprehensive informative article on subject X. (I was about to add 'accurate' but have to think about how...) Casliber (talk · contribs) 21:14, 18 April 2011 (UTC)

Responding to Blueboar, I think that the paragraphs which follow the first one already do explain what wp:ver is actually about. So we just have the problematic first sentence which appears to say / is interpreted to say "accuracy is not a goal of Wikipedia". North8000 (talk) 21:40, 18 April 2011 (UTC)
You miss my point... I know from experience that there is no way in hell that you will gain a consensus to change the first sentence. There are simply too many people who disagree with your basic premise... people who don't think that the first sentence is problematic, and people who (correctly) think that sentence is vital to fighting POV editors and Fringe theoroy fans... people who want to keep it exactly as it is. It just ain't gonna fly.[citation needed] On the other hand, we might be able to resolve the situations you are concerned with, and gain a consensus, if we keep the opening sentence as is... and concentrate on clarifying the explanation that follows the sentence, so that we avoid the potential for misinterpretation. Focus on changing what you can change, and accept that there are things you can't. Blueboar (talk) 21:58, 18 April 2011 (UTC)
I think you're on the right track. We should follow up "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth" with a statement that "This must not be taken as license to knowingly insert false information that has appeared in an otherwise reliable source" or similar. The Spirit of Neutrality and Truth (talk) 22:27, 18 April 2011 (UTC)
↑↑↑↑↑ As far as I'm concerned this is the perfect solution. It keeps the original, snappy version, should fix the problem and is unlikely to have any bad side-effects. Hans Adler 06:21, 19 April 2011 (UTC)
Can someone give examples of people using this policy to insert false material knowingly? More than one example, please, to show that it's a real problem. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 06:26, 19 April 2011 (UTC)
I don't understand the fear that "false information might be knowingly inserted in Wikipedia" under the current policy. When I've found contradictory information in sources while editing a history article, me and other editors usually work out through discussion on the talk page which information to use. Sometimes we end up presenting two or more sources, such as "so-and-so says one submarine was present, but so-and-so states that two were actually there" or something like that. Then, if necessary, further information on discrepancies in the sources are placed in the footnotes. The reader is then free to check the sources on their own and make up their own mind as to which is true. What's wrong with this system of doing things? Cla68 (talk) 07:54, 19 April 2011 (UTC)
Nothing; but there are cases where the dubious sourced information is not actually contradicted by any other source. For example, we had the issue at the Chopin article a while back where one biographer had written (in half a sentence) that Chopin had "changed his citizenship". No other source was found for this claim; a bit of original research showed it to be quite unlikely; however, there was no source that said "Chopin did not change his citizenship" or anything to that effect (why would there be?), so someone still insisted on writing this assertion (probably untrue) into the article. --Kotniski (talk) 09:53, 19 April 2011 (UTC)
I've seen several cases where people wrote false statements in articles that they thought were correct, and that was then based on their false understanding of certain sources. In some cases the editor would base his argument for inclusion on the fact that the source is reliable and we shouldn't argue who is right or wrong. The problems were resolved, but only after convincing the editors in question that the truth obviously does matter and to find out what it is, we really need to discuss the theory in detail on the talk page and forget about what the Wiki-rules say. Count Iblis (talk) 14:27, 19 April 2011 (UTC)
Yes, I have seen similar cases. But I think they are relatively rare. Far more common are situations where (without any misinterpretation involved) two sources actually do say different things (or even out right contradict each other). Both sides get into an argument over which source is "True" and which is "False". We do want to make it clear that when reliable sources disagree as to what the truth actually is, we don't argue over which is right and which is wrong... instead we present both sides of the argument and attribute who says what. Blueboar (talk) 15:10, 19 April 2011 (UTC)
I think it sometimes is a problem with quotations. Reliable source A says, "X said Y". Reference to X's actual publication shows that X didn't actually quite say Y. However, if Y is a statement likely to elicit a strong emotional response in the reader, POV editors will insist that "X said Y" be included in the article, because it was reported in a reliable source. It's for this reason that we have WP:RS#Quotations, of course. Here is an example; not a perfect example, but it falls into the general ballpark. --JN466 15:32, 19 April 2011 (UTC)

Request for examples[edit]

I think someone needs to produce diffs of editors adding false but well-sourced material, then diffs showing them arguing that it has to stay even if known to be false, or where the source clearly made a mistake. Otherwise there's no evidence that this happens. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 01:04, 20 April 2011 (UTC)
SV: there are at least two such cases on Talk:Pseudoscience (one of which was a triggering factor for the current ArbCom case).
  1. The use of the first line of an abstract of a psychology paper on cognitive distortions to make overly-broad factual claims about pseudoscience as a whole (when in fact the actual paper does no deal with pseudoscience in any analytical way, but only examines the possible cognitive distortions that might lead people to use medical quackery). diffs are too numerous in this case - easier if you just read the first few paragraphs of this section, this section, and this section.
  2. The reinsertion of this material, despite the fact that the 'ten pseudoscientific beliefs' being mentioned come from a footnote in an NSF exemplifying a point in a section on public science education, and is not otherwise mentioned in the document. Note that Enric's edit summary refers to something that was not removed, and makes no mention of the problem of misusing of a footnote in this way. Enric has not yet responded to my talk page section, but there was an extensive dispute over this same passage on the ghost article (involving brangifer, hans adler, and me) in which the quote was presented as a definitive statement of the NSF's beliefs. I'll go hunt for those diffs - maybe a bit later this evening.
In both these cases (and in others I could dig up if needed) there is what I can only describe as a scientific version of biblical literalism, in which editors seek out incautious quotes tucked away in odd corners of scientific articles - things that the authors clearly said, but which can hardly be treated as analytical or interpreted as part of the article's intent - and present them as strong authoritative statements to construct some overly-strong criticism/praise of a topic. They then argue extensively that the quote is verifiable and from a reliable source and so cannot be excluded. It doesn't seem to matter how much one argues that the sources are being misrepresented and the quotes taken out of context, because the discussion always comes back to "it passes V and RS, therefore it stays in"; QG has even gone so far as to suggest that talking about an article's intent or the context of a quote is original research. There's no doubt in my mind that the people who do this recognize that the source itself does not mean to say what they are using it to say, and that the statements as they are used are not true - there's no other way to make sense of that kind of literalistic, policy-thumping reading. And yet they continue to argue for it. --Ludwigs2 03:13, 20 April 2011 (UTC)
Thanks, Ludwigs, I've not looked at your examples yet (I will read them later), but just scanning your post, this just sounds like bad editing, and people ignoring the "threshold for inclusion" part of the key sentence. All the policies are misinterpreted or ignored by editors engaged in poor editing; it would be impossible to write them in a way that would avoid this. What we look for when deciding whether policy needs to be changed is a pattern of reasonable editors being inadvertently misled by poor policy wording—or new editors who are clearly trying to do good work being similarly misled. But I don't see that with V. On the contrary, it's one of the policies that is clearly understood, at least in my experience of watching it being used. I'll post more once I've looked at your links in detail. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 03:43, 20 April 2011 (UTC)
I understand what you're saying, and I even want to agree with you. I guess I just personally feel that policy should both encourage good editing and forestall bad editing (e.g. it should be proof against both accidental misleadingness and willful misinterpretation. But read over the examples a bit and tell me what you think. --Ludwigs2 06:16, 20 April 2011 (UTC)
Hi Ludwigs, I took a closer look, and it's just poor editing. This edit, for example, is a misuse of a source. There's nothing about the way the policy is worded that would cause or prevent that kind of editing. We have to assume a certain familiarity with using sources, and with being able to summarize them accurately, and see when they're being used inappropriately. I agree with you 100 percent that that ability is often lacking, but there's nothing this policy can do about that, unfortunately. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 08:40, 21 April 2011 (UTC)
SV: I agree with your points - it's bad editing, it's misuse of a source, and I've said that numerous times on the talk page. The problem is that this policy is constantly invoked as the rationale for this edit (and ones similar to it) in the "it's verifiable and cannot be excluded" vein. That is a misuse of policy, not poor editing - to repeat an analogy I used elsewhere, it's like someone who's run over a bunch of school children but defends himself by saying that the law allows him to drive at 25 mph in school zones. No judge would allow that interpretation of the law to stand, but we don't have judges on wikipedia. Either we need to create a lower court system where misuses of policy like this can be adjudicated (isn't that a scary thought!) or we need to craft something into policy which precludes this kind of misuse. Otherwise we'll continue to have exactly what we have: a system in which 'policy relativism' (a state where every idiosyncratic interpretation of policy is treated as equal to all others) can be used to obstruct beneficial changes or promote even the most ridiculous edits. --Ludwigs2 18:08, 22 April 2011 (UTC)
It is generally fairly clearly understood, but that's despite, not because of, the way it's written. (Well it's not all badly written - it gets better as it progresses, and of course we have its fork WP:NOR saying the same things, sometimes more clearly, so most people get the message in the end.) But as the examples given here have shown, there are many editors around - not necessarily bad-faithed, but accepting in good faith the policy that they see written - who think that accuracy doesn't matter as long as we're parroting what some source has said. Of course we don't know exactly which wording in which policy (if any) has given rise to each such misunderstanding, but we should be trying to word all our policies so as to avoid the possibility of such misinterpretation.--Kotniski (talk) 08:03, 20 April 2011 (UTC)
Here is an editor who is convinced that the article on weight should start with the definition that is in the "majority" of general college physics texts. He has absolutely no source for that idea, but pulls it out of the air wearing his editor-hat. However, he believes that my belief to the contrary is a personal "conclusion," but presumably that his, is not. His "realible-source" is a physics teacher who made a brief survey of college physics texts, and decided they mostly say something that contradicts the ISO defintion of weight. The educator himself doesn't like the physics texts and he does like the ISO definition, and his purpose is to improve physics teaching, not to define weight for the world or Wikipedia. However, the editor thinks that we need to go with the most common textbook definition, since there are more of these than any other number of sources he can find, having been counted for him, in the article, by the educator. So, ironically he is using a definition that THAT writer did not like. It's a very weird argument. And yes, poor editing on WP. But all based on this editor's idea that NPOV should be based on the largest numbers, and nevermind arguments about quality, since those are not ours to make, as editors. A typical WP mess. As usual, this editor thinks he is being neutral, and he is sticking to his guns. Of course, he isn't neutral-- he's pushing his own POV that general college physics texts are the be-all and end-all for physics definitions. [3] SBHarris 03:57, 20 April 2011 (UTC)
SV, I had the situation where a small town US newspaper reported on a UK court case and the described what issues the case was (allegedly) about and the parties (allegedly) involved. The court judgement explicitly states it was not about those issues. The case description from the US newspaper remains in the article and use of the judges text in the court judgement reached no consensus on WP:RS/Noticeboard, with the claim using it would be OR. [4]. The statement, a false allegation against a live company not even a party in the case, remains in the article, and the judges opinion from the actual judgement has been removed. --Insider201283 (talk) 01:09, 27 April 2011 (UTC)

If you need to untangle a nasty sentence, first find the subject. I believe that subject of the first sentence in WP:V is “material”. The words that now start the sentence are used in an unnatural way, only later defined by analogy in a subordinate clause. Such writing could be improved.

Here’s what happens when you start with the subject of the sentence. You get something like:

Material added to Wikipedia must pass a standard of verifiability. Non-controversial statements of fact that are already widely held to be true may be included in Wikipedia with no citation. If there is an argument or challenge to such material, a citation should be added. However, technical or controversial facts must be immediately accompanied by a citation so that readers can check that the material has already been published by a reliable source. Factual statements that are supported by good references therefore take priority over.the editor’s personal beliefs.

What this says is “trust, but verify” (shades of Reagan). I’m going to get objection that this perhaps puts more trust in editors than is the academic standard for students writing a term paper. Yes indeed, it does; thanks for noticing. If we’re ever going to have Wikipedia also written and edited by academics and professionals, we need to do just that-- otherwise, any outreach program to professionals is a sham. However, not to worry: Wikipedia already informally works in that way. The policy here is thus less prescriptive than descriptive. And if you disagree, I invite you to the math, chemistry, physics, and medical sections. We’ll keep the light on for you. SBHarris 02:34, 19 April 2011 (UTC)

OK Slim, the narrow category that you defined for an example "adding false but well-sourced material, then ..them arguing that it has to stay even if known to be false, or where the source clearly made a mistake" covers a rare "perfect" scenario of the zillions of types of scenarios where the current wording causes or contributes to problems. You seem to be arguing or implying that the validity of questioning the wording depends on finding bulletproof examples that fall into the specialized case which you defined. North8000 (talk) 11:33, 21 April 2011 (UTC)
This wording means that advocates of fringe theories can argue that it's already widely held to be true that Obama was born in Kenya and that 9/11 was an inside job - as they already do. The only difference is that now they'll have a policy which backs them up. A Quest For Knowledge (talk) 12:47, 21 April 2011 (UTC)
That's one of my points. An attempt to strive for accuracy is disparaged. And since wp:RS does not require reliability on the topic (just an editor layer), the fringe is sourcable per wp:ver, and this policy entrenches the fringe. North8000 (talk) 14:19, 21 April 2011 (UTC)
North, one of the arguments for change above was: "For too long, this wording has been used to justify the deliberate inclusion of information known to be incorrect." I've requested examples because I've never seen that happen. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 17:12, 21 April 2011 (UTC)
The request for examples is a smokescreen. Policy should not endorse things that are undesirable, regardless of whether certain of us as individuals have personally witnessed them. The Spirit of Neutrality and Truth (talk) 14:26, 21 April 2011 (UTC)
Examples are important. People often arrive at policies saying they have to be changed because of x, y, and z, but when you ask for examples of those things they can't produce any. As I said earlier, when deciding whether to change long-standing wording that people rely on, we need to see that the policy is causing a pattern of misunderstandings among reasonable editors, or that new editors are being led astray by it. I can't see that either of these things is happening, and no one has produced evidence that it is. I'm an active editor myself. If were happening I'd have seen it at some point, but I see the very opposite. I see this policy working, and resolving disputes.
It isn't reasonable to blame the policy for editors using sources badly, or for not using common sense. No policy can teach editors how to summarize accurately, or how to tell when a source is high-quality and appropriate, or the importance of not lifting material out of context, or when in-text attribution matters. These are things people learn over many years at school and college. Some editors do learn those skills at Wikipedia, and you can see them get better at research over the years, though it's also true that some don't. Then, on top of skill issues, you have editors pushing points of view, rather than sticking to good source use. Dealing with these things is very frustrating, but it's not the fault of any of the words in this policy. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 17:12, 21 April 2011 (UTC)

Here is a previous request by SlimVirgin for an example: request examplesUnscintillating (talk) 03:14, 25 April 2011 (UTC)

Proposal 2[edit]

How about just losing the last part of the sentence, ", not whether editors think it is true"? That would leave us with the following:

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.

That gets rid of the element that can be interpreted to mean "It doesn't matter whether it is true or not". --JN466 15:13, 19 April 2011 (UTC)

Certainly the above is a big improvement over what we have. I'm partial to my own version, but this has the virtue being shorter, for those who like that. Perhaps it could be kept in mind for NUTSHELL use. Or, it could be used as the very FIRST sentence, with a second paragraph amplifying it, in pyramid Reuters style:

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.

Material added to Wikipedia must pass the verifiability standard, unless it is obvious to all. Non-controversial statements of fact may be inserted with no citation. If there is an argument or challenge to such material, a citation should be added. However, technical or controversial facts must be immediately accompanied by a citation so that readers can check that the material has already been published by a reliable source. Factual statements that are supported by good references therefore take priority over the editor’s personal beliefs.

SBHarris 15:57, 19 April 2011 (UTC)

I'm sorry, but this still seems like a solution in search of a problem. I'm at a loss to come up with a single situation I've encountered where an editor knowingly insisted on inserting false information on the grounds it was verifiable. A Quest For Knowledge (talk) 15:52, 19 April 2011 (UTC)
That's not necessarily how it happens. The editor inserting the material may be quite agnostic about its truthfulness, and take the content on faith. However, if other editors then point out that the material is mistaken, as in the Sam Blacketer case, editors start arguing that it doesn't matter. See for example the comments citing WP:V at Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/Sam_Blacketer_controversy. --JN466 16:09, 19 April 2011 (UTC)
It can happen more perniciously, even in the sciences. See the long, tedious and mostly unnecessary discussion on the TALK page for the article on weight. The definition of weight with most support from college texts (i.e., the largest number of verifiable cites) is the poorest one physically, and is not used in general relativity or by the International Standards Organization (ISO). It speaks of weight as caused by a "force of gravity" so that (by this definition) you still have full weight in a falling elevator or nearly full weight in an orbiting space shuttle, but don't feel it and can't measure it. The better definition ala Einstein just says gravity never causes a direct force anyway, so you never feel it anywhere as such, and thus you really ARE weightless in orbit, not just "apparently" weightless. However, the article editors managed a count of references (ironically from teaching-articles which argue that texts don't do a good job of defining weight!) and pushed this 17th century "gravity force" idea through, as the most "verifiable" definition. In my own mind, this is a subject for a pedagogical section right after the LEDE, but think the LEDE should have the best modern physics definition, not the most common definition like some dictionary. That view was mostly quashed, though it did finally get second-billing (in the science sections of WP, progress in theory does count a little). However, this WP:V policy, poorly applied, is the reason WP's article on weight begins as it does, with a common but bad (even wrong) definition. According to the definition the article starts with, you don't actually have more weight in a centrifuge (you are crushed by "apparent weight"; ignore your weight scale reading). It's also at odds with the information in weightlessness and g-force. One crappy definition leads to problems spreading like crabgrass and we even have an article on apparent weight that is being fought over. I blame the wording of WP:V. If most sources get something wrong, but the best and most authoritative ones get it right, it should be straightforward to note that, and begin with the best, not the most popular. However, it sometimes isn't easy. SBHarris 17:20, 19 April 2011 (UTC)
Are you saying that collegiate level text books are presenting "false" information? I find that hard to believe. They may simplify the topic, but I don't think they are likely to give an untruth. I would say this is another case where presenting the disagreement and attributing who says what is called for: (with language along the lines of: "Most college level text books define weight as X <cite text book>, however the ISO defines it as Y <cite ISO>") Blueboar (talk) 18:09, 19 April 2011 (UTC)
College texts present false information all the time in the interest of simplifying a subject, or sometimes because an author doesn’t understand it all that well himself (or is sloppy, or hasn’t thought it through, or whatever). If you want to read about the wars regarding the definition of weight, in which some college texts simply make statements that are the totally wrong (like “weight” is the sum of the pulls of all objects in the universe on an object), see [5]. It’s embarassing. For a more high-browed look at a related problem in physics texts, you might be interested in Oas’ analysis of college texts’ use of the concept of “relativistic mass”—an idea which, when used incorrectly as it usually is, actually conflicts with special relativity and must later be “unlearned” for certain problems [6]. The author notes interestingly that all attempts to get the concept out of college general physics texts have failed over the years (about half still have it, half don’t), but that it is slowly declining in relativity texts, so that war is being won. That itself is an example of how difficult such a NPOV analysis can be—which set of references does one use?

You’re probably encountered untrue statements about science yourself in texts. A familiar one (though usually at the high school not college level) is the idea that electrons “orbit” the atom, a bit like planets orbiting the Sun. But for hydrogen and helium and the inner electrons of all atoms, there’s no truth in that at all, even as a metaphor (the “s” electrons, even if they had no wave-nature, don’t even have orbital angular momentum). Other familiar myths in college texts are the idea that mass can be converted to energy (wrong — mass is conserved, it is matter that can be converted to energy, while mass stays constant). In chemistry we have a generation of texts (even some biochem texts) claiming that the “high energy bonds” in ATP release energy when broken (actually, no chemical bond does that, or it wouldn’t be a bond). This misconception enforced by the idea-advertising trick of Fritz Albert Lipmann, who first suggested that ATP is the energy currency of cells, and took to drawing these bonds as little squiggles ~ , which made them look like little springs waiting to be released. Generations of students since 1941 have thought of them that way. I could go on, but you get the picture. SBHarris 22:15, 19 April 2011 (UTC)

@SV - I've seen numerous tertiary sources make well-intentioned but wrong statements in biology and medicine. I have also seem much jostling at various battleground pages (Climate Change and I-P pages come to mind) where both sides believe they are portraying a more accurate picture (and quite different to each other). Many of these edits would technically fall within sourcing guidelines. Casliber (talk · contribs) 04:19, 20 April 2011 (UTC)
Regarding the examples for "false" statements above one needs to a bit more careful. While some cases they are indeed simply false information, other are just simplified preliminary descriptions or models, that still have their value in a restricted context and in particular in popular descriptions.--Kmhkmh (talk) 04:52, 20 April 2011 (UTC)

Going back to the proposal (Proposal 2), I think this change actually makes it worse, as it retains the words "not truth" while removing the one attempt we do make to explain what we are trying to convey by "not truth" in this context. And of course it still retains the other faults: implying there's just one (necessary and presumably sufficient) threshold; over-emphasizing readers' ability to check (with no explanation what we have in mind with that), and saying that material must have been published rather than just be supportable by what has been published.--Kotniski (talk) 18:55, 19 April 2011 (UTC)

Agreed. As long as we retain "not truth," thereby endorsing the deliberate inclusion of falsehood, tweaking the rest makes no difference. The Spirit of Neutrality and Truth (talk) 16:59, 20 April 2011 (UTC)
Disagree. The last part is needed. Otherwise there's no criterion for what "truth" means in this context. If anything should be jettisoned, it should be the first instance of "truth" in the sentence. (talk) 19:25, 20 April 2011 (UTC)

Proposal 3[edit]

Something like (it wouldn't have to be this exact wording): "Statements in Wikipedia must be verifiable by reference to published reliable sources. Articles should not make statements just because editors believe them to be true - they need to be directly supportable by sources. This principle is often summed up in the phrase "verifiability, not truth"." That way you keep your mantra, without the policy's opening sentence having to be misleading in multiple ways.--Kotniski (talk) 19:09, 19 April 2011 (UTC)

As is, the first sentence discourages editors from removing reliably sourced material using OR. The present direction of this discussion is removing that aspect. Note that WP:NOR doesn't prevent editors from using OR to remove reliably sourced material when they disagree with the reliable source. From this discussion, it looks like Wikipedia is going downhill. Remember, if you shit in your living room, you have to live with it. (talk) 09:51, 20 April 2011 (UTC)
I don't see how the present sentence "discourages editors from removing..." unless it's being interpreted to mean "if something's reliably sourced, then it must be included", which is one of the things we certainly don't want to say (since it isn't the case, however much of a useful "argument" it might be in some disputes). --Kotniski (talk) 10:42, 20 April 2011 (UTC)
Without the part "not whether editors think it is true", it's not as clear what is meant by the phrase "verifiability, not truth", and reliably sourced material might be deleted if, for example, an editor claims that the material is false based on that editor's own personal experience. Note that WP:NOR does not prevent material from being deleted through OR, it only prevents material from being added through OR.
To respond to your remark about interpretation, the phrase "threshold for inclusion..." does mean "if something's reliably sourced, then it must be included". "Threshold" means the same as "sufficient condition". So the first sentence is incorrect because being reliably sourced is not the threshold for inclusion. The material also has to satisfy WP:NPOV, for example it can't violate WP:UNDUE. So the threshold should be verifiability and not causing a change in the article from NPOV. [I struck this out because the ambiguity of "threshold" is a problem, as mentioned in my next message below.] (talk) 13:01, 20 April 2011 (UTC)
After I wrote the above, I looked at more of the previous comments and I found one of SlimVirgin's comments useful which interpreted "threshold" as meaning a necessary condition, and I found one of Kotniski's that noted the possibility of more than one interpretation of "threshold". So I would agree that "threshold" may be interpreted by different readers as having different meanings. Specifically, the reader may interpret "threshold" as meaning either "sufficient condition", "necessary condition", or "necessary and sufficient condition" and thus the word "threshold" may be a problem in the present opening sentence.
I think that the proposal should include the idea that editors should not delete reliably sourced material just because they think it is wrong, and that the deleting editor should have the burden of showing that the deletion is worthwhile. (talk) 16:38, 20 April 2011 (UTC)
I like the proposal. It's one of several good ones put forth here which would improve the current situation. But it's sad to keep that badly written "verifiability, not truth". North8000 (talk) 11:09, 20 April 2011 (UTC)

Proposal 4[edit]

A requirement 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.

In the above proposal, "The threshold" has been changed to "A requirement" to remove the ambiguity of whether threshold means necessary condition, sufficient condition or necessary and sufficient condition. "A requirement" unambiguously means necessary condition, which is correct. The part "not truth" was removed from the beginning since it is not needed because the thought is more accurately presented at the end of the sentence with the remaining phrase, "not whether editors think it is true." (talk) 19:55, 20 April 2011 (UTC)

Much improved. Still doesn't address obvious information that needs no cite. But perhaps that can be held to the next sentence. SBHarris 20:03, 20 April 2011 (UTC)
Thank you. Your point regarding obvious information is addressed in the second paragraph of the current policy page. (talk) 20:16, 20 April 2011 (UTC)
I still think the current language is better, it clearly and strongly states that we do not include unverifiable information and material, even if it may be true. This is the core concept behind this policy, and the mantra "Verifiability, not Truth" is still the best way to get the idea across when faced with POV and Fringe pushers.
I realize that the current language does not address the other side of the coin... what to do about information that is verifiable but isn't true... and I agree that this needs to be addressed... but we need to address it without removing the strong statement on the first side of the coin. Please, stop suggesting alternatives that remove the "Verifiability, not truth" phrasing... It just isn't going to fly and you will continue to face strong opposition to such alternatives. Shift to fixing the problem in some other way. Blueboar (talk) 20:40, 20 April 2011 (UTC)
Of course I differ....for previously stated reasons, I think that that phrase should be be changed. But, for the point of the moment, I don't feel that it is correct to tell people to stop making any proposals that would change that phrase. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 21:49, 20 April 2011 (UTC)
Thnx North, What we have here is a case of territoriality, and that's the main reason why these policy pages have been turning into garbage and good editors have decided not to waste their time on them. Such territorial fools. Their domain has mostly become a dung heap, especially WP:NOR. Adios. (talk) 22:44, 20 April 2011 (UTC)
I won't speak for others, but for me territoriality does not come into the equation. I honestly think that the first sentence is important, and needed to combat POV and Fringe pushing, and so think that it should remain. However, because I also agree that there is a problem with people pushing the verifiable but untrue, I would like to see the explanation amended, while not changing the important initial sentence. I just don't think we should get rid of one of the most useful lines in the policy. Blueboar (talk) 00:09, 21 April 2011 (UTC)
Well, we both place a high priority on combating POV and fringe pushing. I just think that there oughta be a way to word this to accomplish that without disparaging the idea of striving for accuracy. North8000 (talk) 02:03, 21 April 2011 (UTC)
Blueboar, This proposal is not getting rid of the first line. Please don't misrepresent this proposal. There are only two small changes in the first line that don't change policy but significantly improve its presentation by removing ambiguity and wrong impressions. The simple improvements are the removals (indicated by strikeout) and additions (indicated by underline) in the following:
"The threshold A requirement 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."
As mentioned previously by other editors, the present form of the sentence has the problem of being interpreted as Wikipedia not caring about what the truth is. The problem comes from the first part of the sentence, "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth". The correct message to present is at the end of the sentence which says that the important consideration for material is verifiability, "not whether editors think it is true". Can't you see the difference between "truth" and what "editors think is true"? Why keep something at the beginning that is misleading and hope that it is cured by the phrase at the end of the sentence? The cure is to remove the malignancy, which is the phrase "not truth" at the beginning.
The other problem is the ambiguity of the word "threshold". This also has a simple fix: change "The threshold" to "A requirement", as I explained previously in more detail. (talk) 14:15, 21 April 2011 (UTC)
  • Response to SlimVirgin's comment below - Here's the definition of requirement,[7]
re·quire·ment (r-kwrmnt) n.
1. Something that is required; a necessity.
2. Something obligatory; a prerequisite.
This is a word that works well and its use in the sentence does not make it false. (talk) 17:44, 21 April 2011 (UTC)
And regarding your comment that "We've already had a poll about this", show me the link and give the most relevant excerpt here. (talk) 18:00, 21 April 2011 (UTC)
Oh, and one other thing. I don't have any illusions that this change will get in. You are against it, and that's all it takes here. You are able to call in all the support you need. I expect your regulars and others to show up if enough consensus starts to form in support of this proposal or earlier. (talk) 18:32, 21 April 2011 (UTC)
And you know somethin', I'll just let nature take its course on this one. I've spent enough time here. (talk) 19:25, 21 April 2011 (UTC)
    • Perhaps adding a qualifier would help: "The most fundamental requirement ..." --JN466 23:11, 21 April 2011 (UTC)

Poll Proposal 4[edit]

(Please use the above section for threaded discussion.)

  • Support - corrects problems with "threshold" and "not truth" with simple fixes. See my messages above 20:16, 20 April and 14:15, 21 April. (talk) 14:35, 21 April 2011 (UTC)
  • Support - Not perfect, but not so pernicious as the current wording. The Spirit of Neutrality and Truth (talk) 15:26, 21 April 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose. To say that "A requirement for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability," is false. It's not just "a requirement"; it's the threshold, a necessary condition. We've already had a poll about this. It's not really on to hold poll after poll until people get tired of commenting. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 17:23, 21 April 2011 (UTC)
I've started a thread in the above section to discuss SlimVirgin's comment. Please make further comments there. (talk) 17:44, 21 April 2011 (UTC)
  • Support As an improvement, if for no other reason that it gets rid of what has properly been characterized as the malignant suggestion in the present policy that WP doesn't care about what actually is the truth. Some of the comments above make it clear that there is a school that feels this is, and should be, exactly the case: that a mere accurate summary of the literature is not only a worthy goal in and of itself, but a sufficient one also. Perhaps Jimbo Wales really didn't mean to say that WP is providing "the sum of all human knowledge." He really meant to say "WP is providing a digest of everything published by anybody with a reputation for reliability, even if it's wrong." But either he was misquoted, or else the first thing sounded cooler for the press. SBHarris 16:03, 21 April 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose - per my previous comments Blueboar (talk) 18:48, 21 April 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose per SV and Blueboar, and this does appear to be almost an end-run around previous polls, including the main one above. Jayjg (talk) 22:02, 24 April 2011 (UTC)
  • Support verifiability is the key - threshold = requirement. Casliber (talk · contribs) 00:30, 2 May 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose per SV and Blueboar. Cla68 (talk) 00:34, 2 May 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose It's not broke, don't fix it. A Quest For Knowledge (talk) 22:19, 3 May 2011 (UTC)
  • Support Per Casliber and Boris. It isn't perfect, but make verifiability the end point. OrangeMarlin Talk• Contributions 00:50, 4 May 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose IMHO, it ain't broke. -- Donald Albury 09:37, 4 May 2011 (UTC)

Proposal 5[edit]

(I'm proposing radical reform of this policy, there is also an issue with verifiability being defined as "attributable to a reliable source")

Texts that are not verifiable to a sufficiently high degree cannot be included in Wikipedia. Verifiability, strictly speaking, means the ability of readers to verify the veracity of the text from first principles. Since this is almost never the case in practice, we also allow indirect verifiability of texts that include a number of citations to sources, where one assumes that the attributed parts of the text to the cited sources are correct. Here a requirement is that the sources are considered to be reliable sources and that assuming the correctness of the parts attributed to sources is not unreasonable.

Count Iblis (talk) 02:59, 21 April 2011 (UTC)


  1. Count Iblis (talk) 22:44, 3 May 2011 (UTC).
  1. Sorry, I think it can be stated alot more simply. It is a step in the right direction though. Casliber (talk · contribs) 04:16, 4 May 2011 (UTC)
  2. I don't see how that improves anything. -- Donald Albury 09:43, 4 May 2011 (UTC)

Proposal 42[edit]

Proposal with a minimal change:

  • The initial 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.

I think the simple addition of the word "initial" before "threshold" could resolve our concerns... it implies that there are other thresholds that must be met, but makes it clear that verifiability is the first. Truth/lack of truth (or, more accurately... "accuracy") can be considered one of these other thresholds, but it comes into the discussion after the information or material has passed the initial threshold of verifiability. Thoughts? Blueboar (talk) 12:28, 21 April 2011 (UTC)

I think "truth" should be replaced by "alleged truth" or "personal opinion" or something else that indicates that it is an opinion that one has about the truth, and not the truth itself. If you know something to be the truth, then you can only know that because you can verify it to be the truth (and that verification would necessarily go beyond the minimum threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia; just because a reliable source says something doesn't make it the truth, so if you know it to be the truth, there must necessarily be more to it than that). Only in cases where that verification involves your personal involvement in the topic, becomes it non-verifiable to others (e.g. a demonstrator in Syria cannot edit articles here based only on his/her own recollection of events there). But such very exceptional cases where "not truth" would be justified are not the main focus here. Count Iblis (talk) 15:14, 21 April 2011 (UTC)
  • Support in context of Casliber's discussion comment here --Tenmei (talk) 15:00, 21 April 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose - Does not address Casliber's discussion comment here, where that editor is agreeing with the comment above it. "initial threshold" is still ambiguous and doesn't distinguish between an initial sufficient condition and an initial necessary condition, which was Casliber's point (and originally Kotniski's). The other Casliber/Kotniski point was regarding the problem with "not truth". See Proposal 4 which cures these problems. (talk) 15:10, 21 April 2011 (UTC)
I am not sure I understand how the words "initial threshold" are ambiguous... the two words have a fairly standard meaning. Blueboar (talk) 15:27, 21 April 2011 (UTC)
The problem is that "threshold" can mean to a reader "necessary condition", "sufficient condition" or "necessary and sufficient". This was mentioned by me previously in the discussion that you and I had in the section on Proposal 4. The ambiguity of "threshold" was also mentioned by Kotniski and agreed to by Casliber in the link that Tenmei gave here (before Tenmei just struck out his comment, leaving a bare vote), and which I also used in my first message here. I personally had the experience of interpreting "threshold" in that sentence to mean sufficient condition, and I commented that it should have been necessary condition. I later recognized that it was intended to mean necessary condition and I struck out my comment and continued the discussion appropriately. (talk) 16:42, 21 April 2011 (UTC)
  • ???? Is the question the explicit one (of whether to add the one word) or the implicit one (of dropping all other proposals)? Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 16:51, 21 April 2011 (UTC)
I intended it to be both. Blueboar (talk) 18:50, 21 April 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose. "Initial threshold" is just another way of saying "threshold". SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 17:26, 21 April 2011 (UTC)
Not quite... "The threshold" implies that verifiability is the only threshold... "The initial threshold" implies that there are other thresholds, but verifiability it is the first we have to cross (examples of other thresholds for inclusion include: whether the material would give Undue weight to a fringe viewpoint, whether the material is OR, etc.) Blueboar (talk) 18:57, 21 April 2011 (UTC)
I wonder if it's just a question of trying to make this policy say too much. What we're concerned with here is making sure editors know their beliefs are not the issue; it's the beliefs of reliable sources that count. But we have other policies that guide how to use sources: NOR discusses primary/secondary and SYN; NPOV discusses UNDUE, which is about judging the authority of source material. I think maybe the disagreements here are caused by people wanting this page, in effect, to cover those issues too. But we do make clear that the three content policies must be understood together. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 16:15, 22 April 2011 (UTC)
  • Comment I still don't see a need to change this. A Quest For Knowledge (talk) 19:23, 21 April 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose Still contains the toxic "not truth" construction. If we take out those words we still make the point that we go by reliable sources and not the opinions of editors; i.e., "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, not whether editors think it is true." The Spirit of Neutrality and Truth (talk) 19:27, 21 April 2011 (UTC)
The entire point of my proposal was to solve the concerns people had in a way that retained the "Verifiability, not truth" construction (which apparently about half of us think is vital and the other half thinks is toxic)... sigh, it looks like we are going to go no where... any proposal anyone makes is going to come down to "no concensus"... because any proposal that contains those words will be opposed by half of us, and any proposal that omits them will be opposed by the other half. Blueboar (talk) 22:13, 21 April 2011 (UTC)
Not sure it's 50/50, but I think everyone wants to be cautious about changes in the lead of a core policy, and (rightly so) sets a pretty high bar of near-perfection for any changes made. North8000 (talk) 15:05, 22 April 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose. We are still trying to fix something that isn't broken by using less-clear or less-effective wording. Jayjg (talk) 22:04, 24 April 2011 (UTC)
    IMHO it IS broken (or, least, it causes more problems than a better written version would). But this particular proposal is essentially one to maintain the status quo by supplanting any proposals that include actual change, so I think that you and the proposer agree. North8000 (talk) 22:18, 24 April 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose. Still has the misleading "not truth" bit in it. Casliber (talk · contribs) 00:41, 2 May 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose. Yep. Which has been my own complain from the top of this (now long) page. SBHarris 21:58, 3 May 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose It's not broke, don't fix it. A Quest For Knowledge (talk) 22:19, 3 May 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose Barely different from the current one.OrangeMarlin Talk• Contributions 00:52, 4 May 2011 (UTC)

Proposal 43[edit]

  • All material included in Wikipedia must be able to be verified in a published, reliable source. This means that it is not sufficient for information to be true; editors must be able to check that a reputable source says it is true. Verifiability is a threshold for inclusion--a necessary condition which must be met before other considerations come into play. This policy does not mean that any edit which is verifiable must be included; other considerations such as length, relevance, weight, point of view, availability of better sources, notability of the subject, and editorial discretion are also considered when determining if information should be added. Editors should consider all aspects of a source before using it, so long as they do not engage in original research when doing so.

I'm not sure why this is so hard. Everyone seems to have the same criticisms. How about this, or aspects of it. Ocaasi c 05:01, 27 April 2011 (UTC)

In WP:Verifiability, not truth, sure. Here, it seems like unnecessary instruction bloat to me. WhatamIdoing (talk) 03:40, 29 April 2011 (UTC)

This is really good. A much better and less problematic statement. Plus addresses the parts here that are relevant to interaction with other policies. North8000 (talk) 08:57, 29 April 2011 (UTC)

I like it, as well. And if it looks too long an you need a pithy "start-off nutshell," just put a paragraph break between the first two sentences of the above, and the rest. The next paragraph simply amplifies what else besides WP:V is needed, both alongside and in addition. In fact, it sort of reminds me of a synopsis of WP:N. Heh. But anyway, this is progress. SBHarris 21:57, 3 May 2011 (UTC)
Yes, I like it too. The writing is succinct enough that I don't think it need be "nutshelled" as well. I'd maybe make a line break after "...considerations come into play." if you want to make it less like a wall of text. Casliber (talk · contribs) 00:43, 4 May 2011 (UTC)
Yeah. Slightly wordy, but I love it. Not bad Ocaasi. Not bad at all. OrangeMarlin Talk• Contributions 00:54, 4 May 2011 (UTC)
I don't object... but given how many talk page discussions have quoted it over the years, I would prefer to keep the current opening line ("The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth"), and then have the language in this proposal as an explanation of that line. Blueboar (talk) 01:55, 4 May 2011 (UTC)
See I hate that opening line as it (probably unwittingly) implies that truth and verifiability are almost mutually exclusive. Casliber (talk · contribs) 04:14, 4 May 2011 (UTC)
We don't "check that a reputable source says it is true", for example it is verifiable that the Chicago Tribune on November 3, 1948 stated "Dewey Defeats Truman".Unscintillating (talk) 23:53, 4 May 2011 (UTC)

Truth vs. Verifiability[edit]

To the question of why verifiability is more valuable than truth, consider the subjectivity with which many use the word truth compared to that of "verifiability". At times, they may go hand in hand, but it is largely the opinion of the majority, as demonstrated by reliable resources, that may determine truth. One expert — I do not really like the word "expert" because in my mind it denotes some egotistical label people call themselves in order to land a bigger paycheck; we are all experts ina our own field of knowledge in some way, but I digress — one expert, say a mathematician or an evolutionist, may believe that "X is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth", whilst twenty other expert mathematicians may instead declare "Y is the truth" where A and B are mutually exclusive items. Our job in Wikipedia is to report, simply, the facts, that is the truth in that "many people say X is true, but one reliable source also proclaim Y to be true." The former, of course, having more experts supporting, would have more sources in hand with which to demonstrate the "truth" of X. So, the majority opinion of several reliable, independent sources may determine the truth of something, and this is where we apply the verifiability policy, but we must also state the facts of what they say in a truthful manner as well, and not slant opinion one way or another or give undue weight. In a way, Wikipedia determines the truth of what is in an article by appealing to the majority opinion; but, at the same time, has to state the truth in a truthful manner, i.e. in a Neutral Point of View.

Our policy is not to determine whether or not X is true or X can be true or X is justifiably true but whether or not people believe in X. Wikipedia does in fact support the truth, WP:NPOV and all, but not in any demonstrably verifiable way. The only difference is that verifiability is held to a higher standard because it is simply less ambiguous. To say initially that "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 in itself not true, just as saying something as definite as "the sky is blue" does not have to be checked by reliable sources. Therefore, the relatively small modification removing "not truth" should be of little concern, and perhaps clarify the misconception that Wikipedia is built around lies. "...whether editors think it is true" adequately covers POV-pushing and fringe theory cases and shows how subjective some truth is; just repeating it in the sentence makes it redundant. We can forget about whether or not verifiability is a threshold or a requirement (unless it can be demonstrated in a reliable source); just that the "not truth" part is simply not true. (This long rambling post brought to you by :| TelCoNaSpVe :| 23:45, 4 May 2011 (UTC))


Where did editors here, get the idea that the word "threshold" refers to a necessary condition? (talk) 05:30, 23 April 2011 (UTC)

Probably from the Legal definition of the word (ie how it is defined as it relates to the Law)... according to, the Legal definition of the word "threshold" is:
  • A point of beginning : a minimum requirement for further action; specifically : a determination (as of fact or the existence of a reasonable doubt) upon which something else (as further consideration or a right of action) hinges. (taken from the Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law).
That does sound an awful lot like "necessary condition" to me. Then again, I am not a lawyer. Blueboar (talk) 12:49, 23 April 2011 (UTC)
Thnx for your excerpt from the Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law. That was the kind of answer that I was looking for.
FYI, here's an excerpt from Merriam-Webster's Dictionary,[8]
"a level, point, or value above which something is true or will take place and below which it is not or will not"
This looks like a necessary and sufficient condition. Necessary because of "below which it is not"; and sufficient because of "above which something is true". (talk) 13:29, 23 April 2011 (UTC)
The definition that Blueboar found is very precise and appropriate, and, if applied, enhances that phrase in the policy. The more widespread definitions are more ambiguous and problematic for the clarity of the policy. But either way, interpreting "sufficient" into it is rare, and such is certainly not the case for Wikipedia. North8000 (talk) 13:36, 23 April 2011 (UTC)
One of the definitions of "threshold" includes conditions both for "above which" and a second condition "below which".  This is by definition a form of "ambiguity", i.e., "more than one meaning".  This alternate universe of "below which" is used to refuse to discuss the [WP:Due weight] of material, especially material that is "not true".  Since the first sentence of WP:V is the highest of policies, the argument that "Wikipedia includes material that is verifiable, even if it is 'not true'", holds weight.  The word "requirement" does not have the dual meanings that "threshold" has.  A change to "requirement" would not fix all of the "we don't need to discuss it, it is verifiable" argument, but would provide a part of the fix.  Unscintillating (talk) 15:20, 23 April 2011 (UTC)
Or, people can accept that we are using the word as defined above, and stop trying to wikilawyer it to death. Blueboar (talk) 20:59, 23 April 2011 (UTC)
Gee, what a novel idea that is... Face-smile.svg --Ludwigs2 21:16, 23 April 2011 (UTC)
Yeah... even I have trouble with that one from time to time... the problem is that wikilawyering is so much damn fun
Argument from authority states,

The most general structure of this argument is:

  1. Source A says that p is true.
  2. Source A is authoritative.
  3. Therefore, p is true.
So we have for (1) "I say that 'threshold' is not ambiguous", and (2) "I say that I am an authority", (3) "Therefore what I say is true".  The article states that an argument from authority is a "fallacy of defective induction, and goes on to say, "This is a fallacy because the truth or falsity of a claim is not related to the authority of the claimant, and because the premises can be true, and the conclusion false (an authoritative claim can turn out to be false)."  Unscintillating (talk) 23:31, 24 April 2011 (UTC)
If necessary, we can stop this particular bit of wikilawyering by providing the definition in a footnote. It might even be useful to people whose English literacy is limited. WhatamIdoing (talk) 02:39, 25 April 2011 (UTC)
Opposition to the force of reason is by definition unreasonable.  Unscintillating (talk) 04:10, 25 April 2011 (UTC)
Whatamidoing, Regarding limited English literacy, what do you think about the following definition of threshold from the Merriam-Webster dictionary?[9]
"a level, point, or value above which something is true or will take place and below which it is not or will not"
Also regarding limited English literacy, I misunderstood the meaning of threshold that was intended by editors here before I read their comments. You might also find similar misunderstandings of these editors' intended meaning by writers of scientific papers, if you google with the keywords: threshold sufficient condition. Also, you can google: threshold sufficient. (talk) 15:25, 26 April 2011 (UTC)
I think that the MW definition is irrelevant (that is, that there are multiple True™ definitions of the word in question, that MW definition that you quote here is not the one that we're using). Irrelevant definitions should not be included.
In particular, we're using this word in its necessary-but-not-sufficient sense, and "above which something is true or will take place" is the "sufficient" sense. In application, this irrelevant definition means that if you can verify it, then that material definitely belongs in Wikipedia—to which the community says "Not!" (or at least WP:NOT).
The legal definition quoted by Blueboar is the relevant one. If we're going to bother defining this word, then we should give readers the definition that actually communicates the specific meaning that we intend here, not one of the irrelevant definitions. WhatamIdoing (talk) 21:42, 26 April 2011 (UTC)
A threshold is the line of stone or wood on the ground at the entrance to a building. All other meanings are analogies. Deacon of Pndapetzim (Talk) 16:39, 25 April 2011 (UTC)

Regarding the definition of threshold that Blueboar provided above, it may contain what is needed to replace threshold with something clearer. How about replacing "threshold" with that definition's phrase "a minimum requirement" so that readers wouldn't have to know about a law dictionary's definition of threshold which few people are aware of. With this simple change of one word, the first sentence would be,

"A minimum requirement 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." (talk) 15:42, 26 April 2011 (UTC)

I simply don't see the need. Blueboar (talk) 17:23, 26 April 2011 (UTC)
Wouldn't it stop all this discussion about what "threshold" means? Since "minimum requirement" is unambiguous, while threshold is (clearly, given the conflicting dictionary definitions) ambiguous, why not just go with the clear unambiguous phrasing and be done with it? --Kotniski (talk) 17:44, 26 April 2011 (UTC)
Another way to stop the discussion would be to accept that there's no consensus to change the first sentence, and to respect that, rather than continuing to post month after month as though that consensus didn't exist. "Threshold" is deliberately ambiguous; it means that having good sources is often a necessary and sufficient condition, but depending on context and editorial judgment may only be a necessary one. People who edit a lot know this, and the only way to gain a practical understanding of how the policies are applied, and how they interact, is to use them. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 17:59, 26 April 2011 (UTC)
Obvious fallacies - "no consensus to change" does not imply "consensus exists not to change"... And "people who edit a lot know this" is irrelevant, since this page is written explicitly for people who don't know this yet (why would we be writing a page telling people what they already know?) Anyway, at least we now have the admission that this sentence is deliberately ambiguous - as I often suspect when reading WP policy/guideline pages, their purpose is to conceal information rather than share it. Sad, and harmful to the project, but very hard to change against the iron will of the priestly caste who would keep it that way.--Kotniski (talk) 18:13, 26 April 2011 (UTC)
No one can gain a working knowledge of how to use the policies by reading them alone. And leaving room for editorial judgment isn't "concealing information" (what would it be concealing?). It's acknowledging that context and judgment matter, and that we can't legislate for every situation, and shouldn't want to. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 18:18, 26 April 2011 (UTC)
This isn't about "leaving room for editorial judgment", it's just about deliberately choosing a form of words that can be interpreted in two or three different ways, when we could write explicitly what we mean (which would also leave room for editorial judgement) in such a way that anyone coming to this page will know what we mean. (And it's that latter possibility which often seems to be the Wikipedia policy writer's worst fear).--Kotniski (talk) 18:23, 26 April 2011 (UTC)
(Oh, and "is often a necessary and sufficient condition...but may only be a necessary one" means nothing more than "is a necessary condition". Like any necessary condition, it becomes sufficient in a situation where all other necessary conditions are satisfied.)--Kotniski (talk) 19:25, 26 April 2011 (UTC)
SlimVirgin wrote,""Threshold" is deliberately ambiguous" HA HA HA HA !!!! So that's why all the garbage on these policy pages. They're controlled by an editor who is being deliberately unclear!!!! (talk) 20:32, 26 April 2011 (UTC)
Reiterating a slightly modified version of Kotniski's comment, that there is no clear consensus for a particular change does not mean that there is a consensus to not change. The current wording of this policy causes a LOT of damage in Wikipedia, and this first sentence (which emphasizes "NOT TRUTH") is one of the main culprits. The fact that most people of both the "status quo" and "change it" viewpoints understand that changes must be careful and well written makes it more complex. North8000 (talk) 21:02, 26 April 2011 (UTC)
But others disagree, North, as they said above. Lots of editors believe it prevents damage to Wikipedia, and despite several requests no one has offered an example of the policy causing damage. I've seen examples of poor editing, but nothing caused by the wording of the policy.
You would need strong consensus to change it—including consensus beyond this page, given how long-standing it is, and how much people rely on it—and there is no such consensus, so continuing to post as though there is, isn't constructive. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 21:20, 26 April 2011 (UTC)
I believe that this phrase prevents damage to Wikipedia. I don't believe that I have ever seen an editor at a real article who couldn't figure this out. In actual disputes at real articles, this phrase has been a convenient way to explain articles weren't the right place to relate personal experiences. Every single complaint I remember seeing about this phrase has appeared on a policy talk page, and a substantial proportion of the complainants here were people whom I've suspected of deliberate obtuseness or POV pushing. WhatamIdoing (talk) 21:47, 26 April 2011 (UTC)
I'm not convinced that license to deceive the reader by including deliberate falsehoods "prevents damage to Wikipedia," but maybe that's just me. Other people seem to think such license is a good thing. The Spirit of Neutrality and Truth (talk) 21:52, 26 April 2011 (UTC)
See WP:Articles for deletion/Sam Blacketer controversy. At least one high-profile admin in that discussion argued that our article about the controversy should say what the press parrotted from a source that we knew was plain wrong because our serves proved the opposite. Because according to this admin the fact that we know without any chance for reasonable doubt that the reports were totally wrong simply didn't matter. In his own words: "Yes, the coverage may be wrong, but WP:V's instruction to aim for "verifiability, not truth" does not contain an exception for issues about which we assume to know the (sadly unverifiable) truth, such as Wikipedia-related issues." Of course, "assume to know" was a euphemism and "unverifiable" referred to the Wikipedia-internal sense of the word under the most formalistic reading. Hans Adler 22:34, 26 April 2011 (UTC)

Looks like the thread of this discussion is being taken off the topic of this section which is "threshold" which SlimVirgin admits to deliberately keeping ambiguous. Do you want it to be deliberately kept ambiguous? (talk) 22:23, 26 April 2011 (UTC)

I prefer unambiguous language, but I don't object to the ambiguous language so long as we have something where we can point those who are taking it too literally. I am not sure that the discussions already on this page are enough, although they might be. But maybe we should do an RfC on this question: When our own, Wikipedia-internal processes establish beyond any doubt that something is not true, do we have the right to present it as true just because there are formally reliable sources which claim it and no sources which deny it? Hans Adler 22:34, 26 April 2011 (UTC)
Yes. Cla68 (talk) 22:46, 26 April 2011 (UTC)
How is that different from saying that we can do our own original research to prove that otherwise reliable secondary sources are wrong? If there is a source which says there are five houses on Pine Street, and I go and count six, do we substitute my proof for the source's assertion?   Will Beback  talk  23:22, 26 April 2011 (UTC)
We don't have, as anonymous editors, the authority to establish truth on our own as far as Wikipedia is concerned. We have to use what's in the sources. Cla68 (talk) 23:27, 26 April 2011 (UTC)
Indeed. When we have good reasons to believe that a source is incorrect about a straightforward factual assertion there are many options available. The simplest in some cases would be just to leave the faulty assertion out of the article if it's not important. Another is to attribute it and make sure that their assertion is being accurately described. Another is to add other views, where available. A fifth option if objective primary sources contain contradictory material is to to link to that, though not to draw any conclusions on our own. What we can't do is to come out and say, "Source X is wrong because the Wikipedia servers show something different".   Will Beback  talk  23:35, 26 April 2011 (UTC)
The areas where the current wording does damage are much more complex than the example which you infer, which is where a wp:rs has factually wrong material. At the core of it is that it disparages the idea of striving for accuracy, or of accuracy as a goal. The latter is followed on the 90% of important Wikipedia articles that work, and is not allowed at the table in the 10% of important where the current policies are a miserable failure. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 00:07, 27 April 2011 (UTC)
Good point. The idea that we shit on truth and are only interested in "verifiability" leads to a mental model of Wikipedia as nothing more than a huge game of Nomic. Hans Adler 00:11, 27 April 2011 (UTC)
Nomic (which I had not heard of before; thanks) does seem a incisively accurate portrayal of Wikipedia. Trouble is, a lot of people think that's a good thing. The Spirit of Neutrality and Truth (talk) 00:20, 27 April 2011 (UTC)
"We don't have, as anonymous editors, the authority to establish truth on our own as far as Wikipedia is concerned." This is a more strict reading of policy than necessary. (I am not sure that Jimbo would agree, for example, and at many articles it's simply not what happens. There is no problem when our articles are better than all the "reliable sources".) But at least it's reasonable. "We have to use what's in the sources." This is where it gets wrong. We don't have to use them. When the sources say something that we know to be false, we may not be able to say the opposite. But no policy prevents us from shutting up. Editorial decisions do not require reliable sources, we merely tend to use them in contentious cases where editors cannot agree about the truth. Hans Adler 00:08, 27 April 2011 (UTC)
Will Beback, I agree with you and I personally ran into the problem of an editor's false analysis of sources overruled a highly reliable source's analysis of the same sources (researchers at the House of Commons Library reporting on UK forces in Libya). The ambiguity of "threshold" in the first sentence of WP:V prevented me from following up on an application of that policy. Also, I found from the discussions here that it wasn't meant to prevent editors from overruling reliable sources. They seem more concerned with the possiblity that editors will use the sentence to keep in sourced material that they think is wrong, rather than the possibility that editors will use false OR to keep out material from highly reliable sources. I believe both of these adverse situations can be taken care of with a proper unambiguous policy and the first step is to change the ambiguous word "threshold" to the correct and unambiguous "A minimum requirement". (talk) 00:17, 27 April 2011 (UTC)
Hans, as anonymous editors, how are we supposed to believe another editor who says they "know" something is false? There is no way to verify their knowledge within Wikipedia's current structure. Cla68 (talk) 00:19, 27 April 2011 (UTC)
However we know it, such knowledge is required in Wikipedia both in identifying reliable sources and acceptable external links, as well as in WP:UCS.  It is also required in WP:Due weight discussions, where editors decide how much weight to give to verifiable material known to be not true.  Unscintillating (talk) 03:27, 27 April 2011 (UTC)
Answering Cla68's question, to see how to do it you need only look at the the way that the majority of Wikipedia that works, works. (even though everyone pretends that it is otherwise) A group of editors who knows the topic ("knows = they each are carrying the integration of 100' s of sources in their heads) writes the material from expertise, with sourcability and some guidance by sources in mind, working towards the common goal of accuracy THEN they cite it. Then in the minority of articles where the rules are a 100% utter failure (basically, all of the contentious articles) everybody just uses wp:ver and wp:nor to game in as much material on their side of the issue as possible, and to knock out as much of the other side's material as is possible. The policies are used to tar and feather anybody who says that it should strive for accuracy. North8000 (talk) 03:34, 27 April 2011 (UTC)

I agree with the folks who say the wp:ver prevents damage to Wikipedia. That does not refute the assertion that it also DOES damage to Wikipedia, and that further evolution of the wording would reduce the latter. Starting with wording that appears to disparage the goal of striving for accuracy. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 23:29, 26 April 2011 (UTC)

Only if you think that The Truth™ is the same as the facts.
This phrasing is part of our protection from people using Wikipedia to promote their religions, their recollections, and their personal beliefs. What else can you say to someone who says, "I'm psychic and I talked to Eleanor Roosevelt last night. She says that she really was a lesbian and secretly married her girlfriend after FDR's death, so we need to put that into the article, because it's true!"
If you're certain that something verifiable is wrong (that is, it is a matter of fact rather than opinion, and the source got it wrong), then you can use WP:Editorial discretion to omit such sources and statements. WhatamIdoing (talk) 04:18, 27 April 2011 (UTC)
Yes, of course - which is (one of several reasons) why it's wrong to say "the threshold". Something's being "verifiable" (in Wikipedia's sense - why on earth do we keep giving normal English words new meanings? but that's another issue) is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for inclusion. Hence "threshold" (which is ambiguous as to which type of condition we're talking about) is a very poor choice of word; and "the" (before threshold) is straightforwardly wrong, since whatever type of condition you think we're talking about, verifiability is not the only such condition. This really isn't difficult or controversial - just a simple matter of rewording a poorly written sentence that, as it stands, expresses a falsehood.--Kotniski (talk) 06:18, 27 April 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── A crucial part of the lead is that the three core content policies jointly determine the type and quality of material that's acceptable. No one should be interpreting V without taking into account NOR and NPOV: "They should not be interpreted in isolation from one another, and editors should familiarize themselves with the key points of all three." And no one should be applying any of the policies without common sense. This means we don't add material to articles like robots just because something has been published somewhere, even when it's clearly in error. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 16:51, 27 April 2011 (UTC)

no one should be applying any of the policies without common sense. You're new around here, I take it? The Spirit of Neutrality and Truth (talk) 17:07, 27 April 2011 (UTC)
I refuse to relinquish hope. :) SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 20:51, 27 April 2011 (UTC)
(ec) Re: "You're new around here, I take it?" Hah!... not sure if you were being serious, but if so, guess again... Slim Virgin is one of our more senior editors. She has been involved in writing this policy since its earliest days (in fact, she was the original author for most of it). Asserting that no one should apply our policies without common sense is not the same as saying that people do use common sense. I know for a fact that SV is very aware that far too many editors don't apply common sense when reading policy. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Blueboar (talkcontribs) 17:37, 27 April 2011 (UTC)
Boris, I think the 'should be' makes things clear. The fact that we all evolved from monkeys does not mean that we should idealize swinging from chandeliers and throwing feces at each other. Lots of people have trouble with common sense, and that seems to go trebly on Wikipedia, but this does not imply that they shouldn't be asked to use common sense, yah? --Ludwigs2 17:30, 27 April 2011 (UTC)
Topping our key policies with mantras like "verifiability, not truth" does seem rather a good way to create the impression to people that common sense is not welcome around here. Anyway, I don't see why the fact that common sense is to be applied is any excuse for deliberately wording the policy more confusingly than we might. And the fact that there are three core policies (actually only two, since NOR is a fork of this one) is (again) a reason not to say "the threshold" as if this were the only one. --Kotniski (talk) 18:18, 27 April 2011 (UTC)
Kotniski... You would have a point if the mantra was simply "Verifiability, not Truth"... but that is not the entire mantra. The entire mantra is: "The threshold for inclusion is Verifiability, not Truth".
This Mantra does not ignore truth, it places verifiability before truth. The mantra says that before we even start to discuss issues like Truth, we must first have Verifiability. Verifiability is the threshold (the line that must be crossed, the door that must be stepped through, the first condition for inclusion). The Mantra says: Pass Verifiability first and foremost... THEN we can talk about other issues (such as Truth, neutral presentation, synthesis, etc., etc., etc.) Blueboar (talk) 18:34, 27 April 2011 (UTC)
(sigh...) I feel the need for a moment of sardonic humor. Maybe we should change our mantra to "All truths must be verified!": that way we allow everyone to promote their own truth while still insisting that they find sources to back them up. Think of it as the Madisonian solution... Face-devil-grin.svg --Ludwigs2 19:21, 27 April 2011 (UTC)
The problem is that if the wp rules are taken literally, and in abstraction, (which is how most rules are taken in the RW, and how a warrior has the option to use them in wp) the rules do often CONFLICT with common sense. And many have not noticed that the the mother of all examples (it is huge because this is heavily incorporated by reference into all of the core content policies) is where truly reliable sources (reliable on the statement/topic that cited them) OFTEN do not qualify as wp:"reliable sources", and sources that are very unreliable (unreliable on the statement/topic that cited them) often qualify as wp:"reliable sources". This even forms the basis for the execution of the phrase that we have been discussing. North8000 (talk) 21:41, 27 April 2011 (UTC)
Can you give us some examples of sources that you think are reliable but don't pass WP:RS, and of sources you think are non-reliable that do pass WP:RS? Blueboar (talk) 21:53, 27 April 2011 (UTC)
Happy to. I'll give these as generalities, but I think that you would agree that these are all common in real life.
RS that is not reliable on the topic at hand
10 different prominent people make the statement that Obama was born on the planet Pluto. Reputable newspapers cover that they make those statements. In the article section regarding Obama's Pluto birth place controversey, someone puts in the 10 statements. Each is statement is reliably sourced per wp criteria.
A reputable newspaper carries what is essentially an editorial by a badly biased person who says that the Tea Party movement advocates total war. The WP article lists what they said as being information about the TPM. The source of the statement is unreliable, but the sourcing meets RS criteria.
Actual reliable source (on the topic) that fails wp:rs
The XYZ organization lists their official policies on their official web site. One of these says "our official policy regarding aaaa is bbbb". In an article someone writes "the official policy of the xyz organization regarding aaaa is bbbb" and cites their web site. That web site does not meet RS criteria.
A 5 year old unchallenged technical paper on physics written by Steven Hawking (with no editor layer after him) is a reliable source on the material it contains but fails wp:rs criteria.
Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 02:34, 28 April 2011 (UTC)
North, Both of your examples of "Not reliable but passes wp:rs" are cases where we need to look deeper and see exactly how the sources are being used. We need to look at whether we are using them to support a statement of attributed opinion ("according to X, Obama was born on Pluto"), or to support a blunt statement of fact ("Obama was born on Pluto"). In both of your examples, sources are unlikely to be wp:rs for blunt fact, but they probably are wp:rs for an attributed statement of opinion. (And, having determined that the sources are reliable for opinion, we then need to ask whether mentioning the opinion would violate WP:UNDUE or not).
As to your examples of Reliable but fails wp:rs... in what way to these sources fail wp:rs? The first one might have some WP:SPS restrictions, but it seems you are using it within those restrictions... based on your description it seems fine to me. I don't understand how the Hawking paper would fail wp:rs (Unless Hawking never published it) Blueboar (talk) 12:54, 28 April 2011 (UTC)
In a hurry at the moment, so please excuse me if I only respond to to half of your post at a time. What you are talking is common sense, which is not in wp:ver, and which conflicts with parts of wp:ver. Second, you made a false presumption that the inserter made a statement such as one of those two that you posited. Such is not the case in my example. The inserter simply wanted the presence (and impact of the presence) of a large amount of "Obama was born on Pluto" statements present. Such has a POV impact WITHOUT making any source-challengable statement such as the two that you posited, and so the questions that you posed can't be asked. The material is just there, and is from a wp:RS. This type of a situation is VERY common; and is probably the most common way to wikilawyer wp:ver to pov an article. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 13:14, 28 April 2011 (UTC)
What parts of vp:ver conflicts with what I said?
POV is an issue ... but it isn't a verifiability issue (that's why we have a separate policy on it). Trying to challenge all these references to people who think Obama was born on Pluto under wp:V is the wrong approach. They should probably be challenged under WP:UNDUE. And if the consensus is that its not UNDUE to mention them, then the solution to the POV impact is to rewrite the article a bit and consolidate the references into one short ballanced paragraph... eg: "Many prominent people believe that Obama was born on Pluto. The most notable are Micky Mouse, Donald Trump and Abraham Lincoln.<cite><cite><cite> Other prominent people think this belief is ridiculous, especially Albert Einstein, Shirley Temple and Jesus.<cite><cite><cite>" This means you can argue that you are trying to compromise... you "keep the information", but are presenting it in a neutral way. It seems to me that you are trying to solve a problem that falls under WP:NPOV by editing WP:V... that's the wrong approach. Blueboar (talk) 15:02, 28 April 2011 (UTC)
I think that we're getting to the point where responses would need a book instead of a post. :-) On the 2nd half of your post, there you go again trying to use good practices and common sense! Your removal of the voluminous "born on Pluto" material would get reverted by the POV warrior. The pov warrior's edit summary would say "please stop removing reliably sourced material". Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 22:40, 28 April 2011 (UTC)
Where upon I would respond with, "No... nothing was removed... the material is still there, and still sourced to the same sources". Blueboar (talk) 18:02, 29 April 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Here's an example. The LA Times, a major national newspaper and as such an impeccably reliable source by the lights of Wikipedia policy, recently reported on a project to analyze some climate data here. They report that "most of the work" is being done by a certain "Richard Rohde" who "recently earned a doctorate in statistics." As it happens, this Richard Rohde is in fact Robert Rohde, who recently earned a doctorate in physics (not statistics). According to WP:V we have to report that poor Robert Richard doesn't know his own name or what he got his degree in, because hey, that's what the reliable secondary source says, and our interest here is verifiability, not truth. The Spirit of Neutrality and Truth (talk) 04:34, 28 April 2011 (UTC)

That's a good example, but how do you know that the person being refered to is Robert Rohde with a PhD in physics, and that they are not refering to another person named Richard Rohde with a PhD in statistics? The answer is likely that you read about it in some other reliable source (this includes Rohde's own website, which is a reliable source about himself). That makes it verifiable. If instead, you know that it's Robert Rohde with a PhD in physics because you live next door to the guy, that's original research, and we shouldn't take your word for it. LK (talk) 05:07, 28 April 2011 (UTC)
Lawrencekhoo is right: it all comes back to sources. Even the most reliable sources can make errors. But that doesn't mean we can abandon their use and instead write what we know to be true.   Will Beback  talk  05:35, 28 April 2011 (UTC)

Will, implying that THE alternative is "abandon their use......" is sort of a red herring argument; I don't think that anybody would seriously propose that. What I would propose is to improve the definition of wp:RS so that it correlates better to actual reliability on the statement(s) that cited it. An improvement here would have HUGE positive effects. North8000 (talk) 11:23, 28 April 2011 (UTC)

Its not a red herring at all. It goes to the heart of WP:NOR (one of those other core policies that we need to familiarize ourselves with). If the only source to discuss who compiled the climate data is the LA Times, and they say it was Richard the statistician, then our options are limited if we know the source is wrong: All we do is discuss the problem (on the talk page) and explain why we think the source is wrong. Perhaps we can reach a consensus that the LA Times was wrong in this case, and that we should omit the information, or that we should rephrase the information and attribute it ("according to the LA Times, the data was compiled by Richard"). But we can not correct the article to say it was compiled by Robert the physisist based on our own personal knowledge.
However, if we do have other sources, sources that say that the climate data was written by Robert, then we have a very good argument in favor of treating the LA Times as unreliable on this one fact, and correcting the article (citing one of the other sources). Blueboar (talk) 13:31, 28 April 2011 (UTC)
The question was to provide an example of a source that is unreliable (in this context) which WP considers to be a RS. And that was in response to my assertion that reliable sources often fail wp:rs, and un-relaible(on the topic) sources often pass wp:rs. Now we are unintentionally creating a posited straw man argument from the example (that somebody is proposing that we abandon use of RS's and go on personal opinion instead). The actual question of this (new) thread is whether or not wp:rs criteria should be refined. North8000 (talk) 13:45, 28 April 2011 (UTC)

This discussion is generating more argument than I have time to read... I still don't understand why people find it necessary to cling to this potentially misleading "The threshold" wording when "A requirement" is what we mean. What's the downside of this simple change? (Or why we say "verifiability, not truth" when we mean "verifiability". We could equally well say "verifiability, not elephants", or more pertinently "verifiability, not personal conviction". We have nothing against truth as such - in fact it's our goal - this policy is just describing our adopted methods of approximating truth, which exclude certain methods that some might wish to use.)--Kotniski (talk) 16:58, 29 April 2011 (UTC)

Agree Verifiability means verifiability, not "not" accuracy, elephants, truth, or the millions of other things that it does not mean. North8000 (talk) 17:10, 29 April 2011 (UTC)
Indeed, I think we can take this to be the version for April 1, 2012: "Verifiability means verifiability, not "not" accuracy, elephants, no elephants, truth, not truth, nor the millions of other things that it does not mean". Count Iblis (talk) 19:57, 29 April 2011 (UTC)
'Requirement' is the wrong word, worse even than 'threshold'. 'Criterion' is the correct word, but no one seems to like it. Maybe we should try on 'benchmark' for size, what do you think?--Ludwigs2 20:53, 29 April 2011 (UTC)
I often thought that making the valid substitution of the word "accuracy" for "truth" would give this phrase a much needed poison pill so that it could get fixed.  :-) North8000 (talk) 21:34, 29 April 2011 (UTC)
Well, you are entitled to your opinion. Just don't hold your breath or expect others to agree with you. Blueboar (talk) 21:50, 29 April 2011 (UTC)
(e/c) I actually wrote up something like that last january - you can read it here in the archives. I'm not sure why nothing came of that - seems it just fizzled. --Ludwigs2 21:52, 29 April 2011 (UTC)
That one looks good too. North8000 (talk) 21:56, 29 April 2011 (UTC)

"threshold" ambiguous here or not?[edit]

Hello again. The main part of this section started with the question, "Where did editors here, get the idea that the word "threshold" refers to a necessary condition?" Prior to this question, there seemed to be a consensus that "threshold" in the first sentence of this policy was intended to mean "necessary condition". Then later, SlimVirgin dropped a bombshell when that editor wrote, " 'Threshold' is deliberately ambiguous; it means that having good sources is often a necessary and sufficient condition, but depending on context and editorial judgment may only be a necessary one."[10]

So what do the editors here now believe? In the first sentence of this policy, do editors here believe that "threshold" is deliberately ambiguous, as SlimVirgin wrote, and can mean two things: 1) a necessary condition or 2) a necessary and sufficient condition? Please note that if it has the number 2 meaning, then verifiability is all that is needed for inclusion in Wikipedia. (talk) 23:06, 29 April 2011 (UTC)

I would say it is half way between your two definitions... so I'll go with option 3) Verifiability is necessary, and often (but not always) sufficient for inclusion. We have to remember that WP:Verifiability is only one of several content policies. Material must pass ALL of them to be included. To give a few examples, something may be verifiable, yet be excluded because it gives Undue Weight to a tiny minority viewpoint... It might be verifiable, but excluded because it is presented as part of an original synthesis. It may be verifiable and yet excluded because of a WP:BLP restriction. However, if the material is not verifiable, we don't even need to discuss the other policies... because the other policies start with verifiability. Blueboar (talk) 02:34, 30 April 2011 (UTC)
WP:V is the necessity for inclusion, the other content policies (named were WP:UNDUE, WP:SYNT and WP:BLP) are for exclusionUnscintillating (talk) 15:23, 30 April 2011 (UTC)
That is not a bad way to put it... although inclusion and exclusion are two sides of the same coin... and those other polices also talk a bit about how to include (example: NPOV discusses how it is sometimes acceptable to phrase the material as being an opinion vs phrasing it as being a fact). Blueboar (talk) 16:02, 30 April 2011 (UTC)
Actually that's not right: all of these are exclusionary principles. Editors include material they believe is relevant to the topic, but that material has to pass certain criteria if it's going to be retained in the article: the added material has to be justifiable as a common, significant, and non-prejudicial understanding of the topic in the real world, otherwise it will be re-weighted or removed. Policies work together to make sure that added material can be justified in that way. --Ludwigs2 18:02, 30 April 2011 (UTC)
The phrase "Criteria for inclusion" is logically ambiguous. One meaning means exclusion, (a restriction on inclusion) which is what all Wikipedia content criteria are. ("if you fail this you are out", with no comment on what happens if it passes it). The other meaning ("if you pass this, you are in, end of story")does not exist in Wikipedia. North8000 (talk) 18:23, 30 April 2011 (UTC)
I do think the focus of WP:V is more on inclusion than on exclusion (and I think rightly so)... while the other policies focus more on exclusion than inclusion. Blueboar (talk) 18:46, 30 April 2011 (UTC)
I don't think that's correct. As I see it, when someone decides they are going to edit in some material on an article they simply do so - It's assumed (per wp:AGF) that they will be trying to make good additions, and policy is there primarily to keep poor material from establishing itself where they fail. Yes, V looks like an inclusionary principle, but what one is really doing when one verifies some material is saying "This material cannot be excluded on the grounds that I made it up"; it might still be excluded on other grounds, but not on this ground. part of this is a language problem: the active principle here is actually not verification but refutation (i.e. the focus is on identifying material that does not belong on the encyclopedia and removing it), and so talking about verification confuses things a bit - that's why 'criterion for inclusion' sounds odd. What we really have in policy (IMO) is a set of criteria that material being added must pass or risk removal, not criteria that it must meet to merit inclusion. --Ludwigs2 20:35, 30 April 2011 (UTC)
(ec)Here is what SV wrote in December

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

A purpose of WP:V is to prevent spending time discussing material that "might be true" but is unsourced.  What I think this quote means is that experienced editors are using the same policy to prevent WP:Due weight discussion of sourced material that "might be not true".  Unscintillating (talk) 02:59, 30 April 2011 (UTC)

Edit that originally put "threshold" into first sentence[edit]

In the history of WP:V, I looked up the edit that originally put "threshold" into the first sentence.[11] And here is the edit summary of that edit of SlimVirgin,

"criterion -> threshold: meaning verifiability is a necessary but not sufficient condition, which should deal with concerns on talk"

So back then, when SlimVirgin put "threshold" into the first sentence of this policy, that editor wrote that "threshold" is a necessary but not sufficient condition,[12] whereas now SlimVirgin wrote that " 'Threshold' is deliberately ambiguous; it means that having good sources is often a necessary and sufficient condition, but depending on context and editorial judgment may only be a necessary one."[13]

SlimVirgin and supporters are trying too hard to keep one of that editor's mistakes in WP:V. See Proposal 4 for a correction of the ambiguous "threshold". (talk) 14:13, 1 May 2011 (UTC)

I don't see any conflict between her two statements. Blueboar (talk) 14:56, 1 May 2011 (UTC)
The problem is not slim's edit comment or intent, but that the policy doesn't explain them. Why not explain this--having good sources is often a necessary and sufficient condition, but depending on context and editorial judgment may only be a necessary one in clear, lay language? Ocaasi c 16:17, 1 May 2011 (UTC)
Just noting for the record that the "threshold for inclusion" language was not mine originally; it was created by another editor on a subpage. And it has been in the policy since 2005, not 2006. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 23:15, 1 May 2011 (UTC)
Also, it seems the anon ( is Bob K31416 (talk · contribs), who used to post a lot to V and NOR. [14] Bob, it would help if you could sign in so that people can see where you're coming from. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 01:18, 2 May 2011 (UTC)
Yes. The real problem is that we're all used to talking about "necessary but not sufficient" conditions, whereas here we have "verifiability" which is really meant as always sufficient for things that pass WP:N, but NOT always necessary (example, for things that pass WP:N but are not controversial). So it is actually WP:N which is the first "threshold" that material must pass for inclusion in WP. Then for noncontroversial things, that's enough since these bits are "verifiable in theory," even if not in deed (right at the time of inclusion). For more controversial, or less well-known things, for which the editor-community has not taken "judicial notice as being factual" (like the Declaration of Independence being signed in 1776), then a citation to an RS is required also, at the time of inclusion. If there's a question LATER, a [citation needed] can always be added. SBHarris 23:04, 1 May 2011 (UTC)
Um... First, WP:N is for inclusion of entire topics not individual facts or statements... WP:V is for individual facts and statements. Second, verifiability is always necessary... it isn't always necessary to actually include verification, but you have to be able to verify. Blueboar (talk) 01:18, 2 May 2011 (UTC)
There are many words that would accurately and unambiguously state it, and "threshold" isn't one of them. North8000 (talk) 11:12, 2 May 2011 (UTC)

This is not entirely on-topic, but by accident I have just run across one of the most absurd repeated invocations of "verifiability not truth" as a mantra that I have seen so far. See Talk:Larry Sanger/Archive 3 and search for "not truth" to get to the relevant sections. Hans Adler 11:53, 2 May 2011 (UTC)

The only person I can see posting about it there is QuackGuru, and his editing is very problematic. It doesn't help to pull out examples of bad editing and blame the policies. We could link to thousands of examples of editors misusing the concept of neutrality to push nonsense into articles, but that doesn't mean we abandon it. The concept of "verifiability, not truth" serves us well every day. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 19:04, 2 May 2011 (UTC)
I guess my point was that the slogan's undeniable snappiness has disadvantages, and one of them is what simple-minded editors tend to make out of it. I guess I am just much more often exposed to this kind of silliness than you are. Hans Adler 20:21, 2 May 2011 (UTC)
Here's a more common case. The way that most of the part of Wikipedia that works is actually written is that people who KNOW the topic (KNOWLEDGE = information developed from hundreds of sources) work together to write the material. Specific sources and sourcability guide this collaboration but it does not arise from them. THEN they source the result, by picking the correct sources from amongst all of the wrong, biased, off-on-a-tangent or dumb ones. But in contentious articles, (where the policies are a dismal failure) anybody who does not like the result can say the the above process is against wp:policies, and that the above goal is to be dismissed, because wp:ver prominently and specifically disparages the idea of seeking accuracy. North8000 (talk) 20:47, 2 May 2011 (UTC)
BTW Here's a useful method to take a whack at any thought North8000 (talk) 20:47, 2 May 2011 (UTC)
But I've worked a lot on contentious articles. I've made around 115,00 edits, 48,000 of them to articles, including highly contentious ones. I've seen "verifiability, not truth" work time and again, and produce good results and settled results. Any of us could pull out examples of policies and guidelines being misused. But people need to demonstrate a pattern of misuse or misunderstanding among good editors, or new editors, to show that the policy isn't working. There's just no point in continuing to cherry pick the occasional bad edit to blame it on a policy, with no evidence that it's the policy's fault. If you have thousands of cars successfully negotiating a busy motorway for years, you don't re-route it because the occasional drunk driver goes sailing off onto the verge. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 21:01, 2 May 2011 (UTC)
I don't think your experience is at all representative. I have seen you rewrite the lead of homeopathy for NPOV. It was absolutely amazing – not what you did, but the lack of hysterical reactions to what you did. The sceptical and pseudosceptical editors clearly didn't dare to treat you the same way that they would have treated almost everybody else. Had I done the same, it would simply have been reverted. Had Ludwigs2 (not active at that article, but let's suppose he was) done the same, he would ver likely have been blocked in connection with that. Hans Adler 00:26, 3 May 2011 (UTC)
I think where there are disputes in which the policies are basically being ignored (if that's what was happening; I have no memory of it), the wording of the policy isn't going to help. Imagine how much worse things would be if the policy introduced the idea of "truth." It's enforcement that's the problem, or lack thereof. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 00:37, 3 May 2011 (UTC)
By that analogy, 95% of the roads in Wikipedia work pretty well, and 5% are disaster areas. We can fix the 5% without messing up the 95%. North8000 (talk) 21:08, 2 May 2011 (UTC)
That's what's being disputed. All the attempts I've seen so far to change the wording would have sown doubt. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 21:34, 2 May 2011 (UTC)
BTW Most of the 5% are contentious articles where there is a long term real-world conflict between the participants. Do you REALLY think that Wikipedia has been successful on those? Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 21:12, 2 May 2011 (UTC)
I think "verifiability, not truth" succeeds when people stick to it. Where the disputes mirror real-world conflict you often find the policy is not being adhered to—people add their views, then try to find sources to support them, rather than reading the source material, then simply reflecting those views. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 21:34, 2 May 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── I would suggest that if the editors have conflicts in real life, that will be reflected in discussions here, and subtle wording changes in this policy won't affect that at all....--Nuujinn (talk) 21:17, 2 May 2011 (UTC)

I didn't mean personal conflicts, I meant that they represent groups that are opponents of each other, such as in politics. North8000 (talk) 21:23, 2 May 2011 (UTC)
Even then, subtle changes in the policy won't change their behavior. Wikilawyering POV warriors are going to try to twist policy to support their position no matter what we write. That said, I think the "threshold" statement has helped limit this to some extent. I think things would be a lot worse without it. Blueboar (talk) 21:40, 2 May 2011 (UTC)
  • I do think it could be clearer, though, Blueboar. Don't you? Policies are best phrased in words that cause less arguments about their meaning.—S Marshall T/C 22:53, 2 May 2011 (UTC)
Actually, no... I don't think this statement could be all that much clearer. I see a bit of argument among the ten or so of us here on this talk page, and perhaps in a few isolated incidents beyond this page... but I don't see all that much argument about it in real articles... certainly no real pattern of confusion about it. I just don't see a need to change it, and I have serious concerns that changing it would do more harm than good. Blueboar (talk) 23:09, 2 May 2011 (UTC)
Personally, I don't see that one word in the top 5 list of things that most need changing. But the fact that we can't even get one obviously ambiguous word changed to one of the many available ones that are unambiguous, and where nobody has made an arguement for the word "threshold" other than "that's what we're used to" shows that the current dynmamics here have a significant problem. North8000 (talk) 23:19, 2 May 2011 (UTC)
You should've seen the struggle we went through to get copyright mentioned in the lede.  :) Yes, the dynamics on WT:V are a significant problem, because the page is watchlisted by so many people who like the current phrasing. Substantive change is extremely hard to bring about.—S Marshall T/C 23:26, 2 May 2011 (UTC)
People don't want to change that sentence, as has been explained by multiple people in many different ways. The problematic dynamic is that a small number of editors have been trying to ignore that consensus for months to the point where the page has becoming unusable. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 00:12, 3 May 2011 (UTC)
So, I guess the minority viewpoint (10 of 21) in the above poll counts as that consensus (that others are violating) because the two owners here voted that way? North8000 (talk) 11:03, 3 May 2011 (UTC)
The poll above disputes your contention that it is only a small number of editors. Slightly more than half of the respondents (11-10) are dissatisfied with the sentence as it is.
You have mentioned that "threshold" is deliberately ambiguous.[15] When you have used the sentence in debates on article talk pages, have you disclosed to the other editors that "threshold" is deliberately ambiguous, or have you just chosen the interpretation that suited your purposes without disclosing the ambiguity? If you had disclosed the ambiguity, then the other editors could have used the other interpretation to oppose you, and the policy would have been useless to you.
I personally ran into a problem with the sentence when I tried to use it in a debate on an article talk page, and that’s what motivated me to get involved in this discussion. I thought that having a good reliable source met the “threshold” and was sufficient for inclusion in Wikipedia, which was one of your interpretations of “threshold”. Unfortunately there is your other interpretation that “threshold” only means a necessary condition and is not sufficient for inclusion. From discussions here, I believe that the sentence was really intended to mean what you indicated when you first put the word “threshold” into policy, i.e. that it refers to a necessary but not sufficient condition for inclusion in Wikipedia.[16] If I had known that, I wouldn’t have tried to use the sentence in the article talk page debate. Instead, I was misled by a deliberately ambiguous policy. Proposal 4 would remove the ambiguity and have the intended meaning for the sentence. (talk) 11:30, 3 May 2011 (UTC)
Bob, could you sign in, please? You're the fourth highest poster to the NOR talk page (1,002 edits between Dec 2008 and Jan 2011). You've engaged in a lot of personal attacks as Bob K31416, and starting polls. I recall that you once wanted to start a poll about whether to have a poll. Yet now you're posting logged out on WT:NOR and here, with over 40 different IPs so far, implying that you're a new editor. It's a violation of WP:SOCK. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 19:38, 3 May 2011 (UTC)
And Wikipedia policies are deliberately ambiguous because making them too specific and rigorous will break them. As is too obvious from this discussion, the more anyone tries to tighten up the wording of a policy, the more push back there is. I was heavily involved in a number of such discussions years ago. I firmly belief that any changes to policies and the wording to policies should be made very slowly. As it happens, I'm satisfied with the specific wording about the "threshhold", and think it serves the purpose well. I've been avoiding these discussions for a while now, but that does not mean that I think they are broken, or even that they need to be tweaked. Unfortunately, I think that most editors who are happy with the policies just don't bother to come in here, so I don't think we can draw the conclusion that 20 editors here represent the community as a whole. We must exercise our collective editorial judgement about what is reliable and what should be included and how to word it. Playing around with the wording of policies will rarely make that process easier, and will often merely increase the opportunities for wikilawyering. -- Donald Albury 12:15, 3 May 2011 (UTC)
  • To me, you seem to be saying that Wikipedia policies ought to be vague and ambiguous, that editors who aren't active on policy talk pages are all happy with the policies, and that making the policies specific and relevant will pander to the wikilawyers rather than those who want to edit articles productively. Is that right?—S Marshall T/C 12:28, 3 May 2011 (UTC)
Responding to Donald, the "silent majority" can be claimed by anyone. North8000 (talk) 13:09, 3 May 2011 (UTC)
@ S Marshall: The way I see it, policy on this level is a bit like a constitution, and has to strike he same balances a national constitution needs to strike:
  • It has to be general enough that thoughtful, well-intentioned people can apply its principles to new situations as they arise (because things are always changing)
  • It has to be clear and consistent enough about principles that misinterpretation or intentional misapplication is difficult to manage effectively
  • It has to be flexible enough to fit a broad range of situations
  • It has to be stable enough that it can be applied consistently in a broad range of situations
Excessive specificity inevitably causes headaches down the line (think about the three-fifths clause in the US constitution). vagueness and inconsistency cause different kinds of headaches, because they create a place where interpretations can go a bit wild. inflexibility always produces injustices of one sort or another; instability just leads to confusion and conflict... the proper approach to documents like this, if you want to get thoughtful about it, is the hermaneutics approach, where policy is continuously re-evaluated against itself (and new ideas must be evaluated against the entirety of policy before they can be adopted), but that's a bit much for most people. maintaining a careful, abstract generality is a reasonable substitute for that. --Ludwigs2 16:16, 3 May 2011 (UTC)--Ludwigs2 16:16, 3 May 2011 (UTC)
Many good thoughts there. In the analogy, the US Constitution is sort of the framework (6 pages) for developing the rules rather than being the rules themselves (which is probably more like 6,000,000 pages) Also, legal documents are made to be interpreted literally and precisely, albeit only to the extent that they are such. In Wikipedia, in the big picture it is not so.....they sort of all have "input" to what happens along with consensus, and they are not written precisely. Also there is not that "framework vs. details" hierarchy. Instead we have about 30 pages of core rules, and about 1,000 pages of rules which anyone can can invoke. North8000 (talk) 16:42, 3 May 2011 (UTC)
The point is that a substantive change in meaning requires strong consensus, especially for something that's been in the policy since 2005 and that lots of people rely on. Donald is right that the majority of editors who are content with V don't read this talk page, and he's also right about the dangers of increasing specificity. The policy can't be taken in a new direction by a handful of editors to this talk page. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 20:07, 3 May 2011 (UTC)
Thinking afterwards on it, I should have said "flexible" rather than "ambiguous". My concern is, though, what helps to improve Wikipedia? Flexibility to deal with issues as they arise is vital. Precise language has an important role in a legal system. However, Wikipedia is not a legal system. As for the "silent majority", if an important change is well publicized, hundreds of editors will participate, but most of the time most of us are too busy with other things to spend a lot of time on policy talk pages. (I have to admit I've been relying on experienced editors who _are_ willing to spend the time here to defend the policies.) You cannot establish a consensus for substantive change in a policy based a score of editors participating. -- Donald Albury 21:03, 3 May 2011 (UTC)
I really can't agree with the idea of anybody claiming that the "silent majority" is on their side, or a double standard where (only) what the other side wants always needs the huge and overwhelming consensus. On the flip side, change for the sake of change is not good, and so some hysteresis is needed. I don't consider that one word (threshold) to be in the top 5 of things that need changing, but nor do I agree with the process I see at work here to stomp out ideas for evolution of the policy, or to implying that those who promote them are mis-behaving. North8000 (talk) 21:32, 3 May 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────*I'm not suggesting "taking the policy in a new direction", SV. I'm suggesting that we clarify the word "threshold", which is so, ahem, "flexible" as to be hard for some editors to understand. I've noticed that there are editors active on this page who're quite happy to accept a talk-page consensus for a change they like (such as adding the word "threshold"), but want to insist on a full RFC for a change they dislike (such as clarifying the word "threshold" or substituting it with an alternative).

That won't wash, I'm afraid. If we can change "criterion" to "threshold" on the basis of a talk page consensus, then we can change "threshold" to some alternative word that expresses the same meaning more clearly, on the basis of a talk page consensus. Everyone with me so far?—S Marshall T/C 21:34, 3 May 2011 (UTC)

Even though its not in my top 5, I'm with you. The process here needs a tweak. North8000 (talk) 21:52, 3 May 2011 (UTC)
S Marshall, as you know, no one has recently added the word "threshold"; it has been there for six years. It doesn't help to misrepresent what's being said, and to ignore the voices opposed to changing it. The problem is that you don't seem to realize how these changes you propose could have significant knock-on effects. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 00:27, 4 May 2011 (UTC)
(added later) I think that S Marshall was being indirect. They were pointing to promoting a double standard...putting it in based just on a basic talk page consensus, and saying that taking it out should require a huge wide-ranging consensus.North8000 (talk) 17:02, 5 May 2011 (UTC)
  • I really don't think it was me who was misrepresenting anything. My position was in favour of a change to the word "threshold", and this was described, above, as "taking the policy in a new direction". I feel that it is others who misrepresent, others who seek to ignore the voice of change, and others who don't realise the effects of the status quo. In fact, I feel your whole statement applies to you and not to me.—S Marshall T/C 08:16, 4 May 2011 (UTC)
You wrote: "I've noticed that there are editors active on this page who're quite happy to accept a talk-page consensus for a change they like (such as adding the word "threshold") ..." But that did not happen. The word "threshold" has been there since 2005. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 00:13, 5 May 2011 (UTC)

Please note that I have made no claims about a "silent majority" or what it might support. I also did not intend to say anything disparaging about those who spend a lot of time on policy talk pages (and specifically stated that I have depended on such editors to defend policies so I didn't have to spend time doing so). I do feel, however, that changes to policy need a clear consensus, which certainly has not manifested itself here, and that 20 or so editors are not a representative sample of the wider community on policy issues. -- Donald Albury 09:57, 4 May 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────The term threshold appears to have come in somewhere around this August 2005 edit. Then, it was well down in the body of the project page, and it took a while to work its way up to its present prominence. I don't know when I first encountered the initial paragraph in more or less its present form, but I do remember that it struck me as being brilliant.

I have seen numerous occasions, though, of editors having a difficult time getting their minds around the concept. I think that part of the problem may be that the policy page doesn't explain the "not truth" aspect of this very completely. That is understandable, given that this is the policy on "verifiability" (not the policy on "not truth"), but a bit of clarification about "not truth" might be helpful.

How about adding a footnote — something to the effect, "Strong belief in the truthfulness of an assertion is not sufficient to justify its inclusion in a Wikipedia article. All assertions must be verifiable, and all direct quotes or assertions likely to be challenged must be attributed to a reliable published source using an inline citation. In cases where reliable sources disagree, due weight considerations apply." (someone can likely improve the wording there). Such a clarifying footnote might be Ref'd at the end of the lead paragraph. Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 12:41, 4 May 2011 (UTC)

@SlimVirgin: I know it's been at least three or so years since the last change from "criterion" to "threshold" but WP:CCC? :| TelCoNaSpVe :| 04:33, 5 May 2011 (UTC)

It was never "criterion" that I recall, at least not for any length of time. The "threshold for inclusion is verifiability, not truth" was added in 2005. Before that it was discussed on various subpages, and since then has been upheld many times, and is widely used. There would have to be strong and wide consensus to change it. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 04:50, 5 May 2011 (UTC)
Well, maybe it's time for a change for the better. :| TelCoNaSpVe :| 04:56, 5 May 2011 (UTC)
No problem with a "change for the better"... if there is a clear consensus that the change actually is for the better. I don't see any indication of that consensus. Blueboar (talk) 14:03, 5 May 2011 (UTC)
  • Please could someone provide links to this "strong and wide consensus" in favour of the word "threshold".—S Marshall T/C 21:32, 5 May 2011 (UTC)
Just refreshing Slim's memory --- see this edit, restoring criterion language removed here after being restored here from removal here, etc. I haven't grubbed around much back there, but it seems clear that criterion language was used in place of threshold language for a while back then. Personally, I'd be happy with either, if the initial paragraph retained verifiability, not truth and presented that message with punch.
It occurs to me, though, that e.g. "One criterion" might be better than "The criterion". If that is used, it seems to me that the "not truth" part of the message, though important, would need to move to a second paragraph; perhaps something like:

Verifiability—whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source—is an essential criterion for inclusion in Wikipedia.

Truth is only an inclusion criterion insofar as it is verifiable that a reliable source has asserted the truthfulness of the material. The question of whether Wikipedia editors believe the material to be true or false does not enter into Wikipedia inclusion criteria—belief that the material is true does not justify inclusion; belief that the material is false does not justify exclusion.

Someone can surely improve on that, perhaps working the truth part smoothly back into the lead paragraph. Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 23:09, 6 May 2011 (UTC)


The threshold page redirects to this page. I think that the threshold page should contain a discussion about the threshold issue giving guidelines for editors. Verifiability should be mentioned, but there may be other factors to consider besides verifiability. Count Iblis (talk) 00:32, 5 May 2011 (UTC)

Suggest you draft something in your user space, to show people what you have in mind. Blueboar (talk) 14:06, 5 May 2011 (UTC)
Or you could start an essay at WP:The threshold for inclusion. (Myself, I'd be inclined to expand WP:Verifiability, not truth, and perhaps move the page to the whole sentence.) WhatamIdoing (talk) 00:12, 7 May 2011 (UTC)
I'll write up something when I get the time to do that :). Count Iblis (talk) 16:20, 7 May 2011 (UTC)
I've written up something else instead. I've the feeling that this sort of thing may be necessary to make progress in cases like this. Count Iblis (talk) 03:21, 11 May 2011 (UTC)

Discussion on first sentence in policy - let's sort this out[edit]

The complexity of mixing everything into one discussion is really not sorting this out. How 'bout this process:

Step 1 Hammer out the proposed change that has the widest acceptance. Scope = the first sentence, or whatever it would possibly change to. If this is complex, get it down to a final two (not >=3) and vote between them.

Step 2 Cast a wide net and have people weigh in on on whether or not to make the the proposed change.

Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 10:22, 7 May 2011 (UTC)

I think Proposal_43 is the best wording I've seen so far. I'll go with that one. Casliber (talk · contribs) 13:00, 7 May 2011 (UTC)
I agree. Note that the proposal has since been archived and is now at Wikipedia_talk:Verifiability/Archive_48#Proposal_43. --JN466 16:13, 11 May 2011 (UTC)

I propose the following, or evolving from it: (leaving the ambiguous word in for now):

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

Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 18:35, 8 May 2011 (UTC)

Now add a footnote with the old text, because there are some policies and/or guidelines that refer to the old text:

The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability; that is, whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source. No other consideration, such as assertions of truth, is a substitute for verifiability.<ref>For continuity, the previous version of this sentence read, "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is '''verifiability, not truth'''—whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been [[WP:SOURCES|published by a reliable source]], not whether editors think it is true."</ref>

Unscintillating (talk) 01:46, 9 May 2011 (UTC)
I think before we discuss which proposed change has the widest acceptance, we need to agree on whether any change to the first sentence is needed or desired. Blueboar (talk) 02:19, 9 May 2011 (UTC)
I disagree. "Change to what?" is an important part of that question. Plus, it is the norm for a potential change to be consideration of a proposal, not deciding to change with no specific proposal. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 02:26, 9 May 2011 (UTC)
OK... I get what you are saying... but my point is that not changing the current language is an option here. I don't want the discussion to be limited to just a choice between the proposed changes, I want the discussion to include the option to keep the current language. Blueboar (talk) 03:00, 10 May 2011 (UTC)
  • I've made a post to the wikien-l list at outlining how I think the present wording of the first sentence is apt to do us (and the people we write about) a disservice (based on the BLP case discussed on Jimbo's talk). The present wording encourages lazy thinking, and an editorial policy of passing the buck ("they wrote it, so I needn't think about whether it's true, I just need to repeat it, and anyone who deletes it is bad"). Given the way Wikipedia increases the visibility of any sourced material included in an article, it's irresponsible. The valid point in "verifiability, not truth" -- preventing the publication of original research in Wikipedia -- can be made without denigrating truth, or telling editors that they need not bother to think about whether what Wikipedia broadcasts to the world and hundreds of mirror sites is likely to be true or not. --JN466 16:04, 11 May 2011 (UTC)

Continuing / moving this below North8000 (talk) 11:15, 13 May 2011 (UTC)

Proposal for lead paragraph[edit]

A proposal for the lead paragraph:

The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. Any material in Wikipedia must already have been published by a reliable source; it is not enough for an editor to assert that it is true.

instead of

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.

This would mitigate the impression that we just don't care whether something verifiably published is true or not. Thoughts? --JN466 22:30, 12 May 2011 (UTC)

You may be headed in a fruitful direction... but I have a problem with the language: "Any material in Wikipedia must already have been published by a reliable source"... I could see literal readers arguing that this means we can not summarize the material we find in sources, and must do nothing more than quote. We know that isn't what is meant, but it can be read that way (and if it can, someone will). Blueboar (talk) 22:39, 12 May 2011 (UTC)
This occurred to me to. How about "Any facts or opinions included in Wikipedia ..." (Note that the present wording isn't much better in this regard.) --JN466 22:48, 12 May 2011 (UTC)
Can I ask that we take a break from this? We had an RfC this month, [17] and there was no consensus for change. And that was just on this page. I'm pretty sure the wider we asked for comment, the stronger the consensus would be in favour of the current sentence.
The RfC was just been archived by the bot, and now there's another suggestion, one that would significantly shift the burden. I know it looks like just a tweak of wording, but it shifts it to a good source only being a necessary condition for inclusion, whereas the point of the current sentence is to allow flexibility, so that a good source may also be a sufficient condition, depending on context.
I must have typed the above 20 times in the last few weeks. :) I don't feel it's right to keep raising the same issue as though no one has objected, because people get fed up and stop wanting to post here, then the ones who persisted get their way. Core content policy shouldn't be changed that way, at least not in any substantive way. Jayen, that's not directed at you, because I know you've not been one of the people hammering on about this. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 23:00, 12 May 2011 (UTC)
The RfC was exactly 50:50. This is a relatively minor change, which keeps the key wording of "verifiability, not truth". It's the present wording of "not whether editors think it is true" that really sticks in my craw. We don't want to put stuff in the 'pedia that we know to be untrue, that is contradicted by authoritative sources, or that is just salacious and hurtful gossip more likely to be made up than true. What is proposed here is not a big change, Slim, and it does not make any pronouncement either way on whether one good source is a sufficient condition or not. The present wording is often used as an argument that one nominally reliable source is enough to keep something in an article forever, but that was not the original intention of this paragraph, or this policy -- that issue is something that should be and is regulated by WP:NPOV. So I am sorry if you are tired of the discussions, but please look at it anyway. --JN466 23:15, 12 May 2011 (UTC)
Jayen, I don't understand what sticks in your craw about the current language. How does "...not whether editors think it is true" allow editors to "put stuff in the 'pedia that we know to be untrue, that is contradicted by authoritative sources, or that is just salacious and hurtful gossip more likely to be made up than true."
The current language was created to deal with the perennial problem of editors adding unsourced claims on the grounds that "the claim is true" (ie they believe the claim to be true). Our policy is that this is "NOT ALLOWED". I would strongly oppose any attempt to weaken this statement (and I think most others would agree).
However, the language remains silent when it comes to dealing with sourced claims that someone thinks are untrue. To my mind this is a completely different issue... one that is much harder to deal with. I don't think amending the needed statement about not adding on the basis of truth is the way to address the issue of untruth. I can agree that some sort of statement covering when and where to remove on the basis of untruth might be needed, but not if it changes our statement on adding on the basis of "truth". Blueboar (talk) 00:05, 13 May 2011 (UTC)
I sense it's time for a meta poll about whether we should hold more polls. :)
I agree with Blueboar that these are separate issues: (a) don't add something just because you think it's true; what matters is whether you have a good source; and (b) how to handle something that's well-sourced but may be a mistake, i.e. unarguably false. Personally I see the latter as closer to an UNDUE issue. We could try to craft something for another section of V, but it would have to be written extremely carefully, because truth morphs into POV. It's rare for something to be well-sourced and to be completely false, in the sense that everyone would agree that it was false. And is it everyone who is the judge of what's true, or people with specialist knowledge, or who? It's tricky territory.
The change would lead to disputes not being resolved by the production of a good source. In reality, most disputes can be resolved that way, and the point of the core policies is to resolve disputes, not to offer suggestions. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 01:26, 13 May 2011 (UTC)
To me, (b), i.e. "how to handle something that's well-sourced but may be a mistake, i.e. unarguably false", is a BLP or NPOV issue, not a WP:V issue. It should not be addressed in WP:V at all. But the present wording is often taken to address that case, because editors misunderstand "not whether editors think it is true" as referring to case (b). The proposed wording makes that misunderstanding impossible. Longer explanation below. --JN466 01:38, 13 May 2011 (UTC)
But this takes us back to the discussion that was on this page recently. I don't think editors do understand it that way. The only examples I can think of in six years of editing are Sam Blacketer and William Connolley, both with material written about them that was based on the sources' misreading of diffs. We can't craft policy around two mistakes. And I really don't recall having seen it otherwise. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 01:43, 13 May 2011 (UTC)
I do recall seeing it elsewhere. These cases are the tip of the iceberg. Just think; if admins like Sandstein, Jennavecia and SoWhy, who've worked here every day for years, come away with this wrong impression, what's the likelihood that more casual editors will avoid falling into the same trap? The formulation "not whether editors think it is true" offers no advantage over "it is not enough for an editor to assert that it is true". The latter is what we mean; the former is ambiguous and is misunderstood by many to refer to your case (b). Or do you actually want to address (b) with this formulation? --JN466 02:17, 13 May 2011 (UTC)

(edit conflict)

Okay. Let me try to explain. It's because "verifiability, not truth" and "it doesn't matter whether you think it's true" is used as an argument to keep material that is otherwise indefensible. Now don't get me wrong, "it doesn't matter whether you think it's true" may very well be the right thing to say when an editor claims all mainstream science is wrong. But you don't need WP:V for that. WP:NPOV is there to deal with that. Using this snippet of WP:V to make this argument is using this policy to do a job it wasn't designed to do. This policy was designed to make clear to newbies that you cannot add unsourced, unverifiable material to Wikipedia: "verifiability is a necessary but not sufficient condition" for inclusion. But since then, in the understanding of many established editors, it has become something completely different, because they interpret the "not whether editors think it is true" in a different way: that we must not delete verifiable material – even if we know it is wrong, it is contradicted by authoritative sources, or we consider it the product of irresponsible journalism.
To demonstrate this, please look at these comments from the Sam Blacketer AfD, bearing in mind that we all knew and could verify for ourselves that the press had made a thorough mess of the facts.
  • "The article is sourced to multiple reliable sources (whether they got their facts right is not our concern, remember WP:V: Verifiability, not truth)"
  • "Yes, the coverage may be wrong, but WP:V's instruction to aim for "verifiability, not truth" does not contain an exception for issues about which we assume to know the (sadly unverifiable) truth, such as Wikipedia-related issues"
  • "even I know the "verifiability not truth" language. Do you really not know this?" (in response to someone saying, "We must get the article right".)
  • ""Reliable" sources whose accounts are wrong on almost every point. I know ... verifiability, not truth ... That is all very well as long as the article is about someone else"; response: "Either WP:V matters, or it doesn't. Either it applies, or it doesn't. As you yourself pointed out, it's what's verifiable that matters." (Implied: whether we think or know it's untrue does not matter.)
  • "while I am normally one to push the Verifiability, not truth thing, when BLP is involved, it's no good. Internal sources and other information available to us on the project contradict the conclusions drawn in the sources. It's irresponsible of us to report on what sources are claiming when we know it's false"
  • "It seems to be about declaring sources unreliable ("wrong") because we, or some of us, know. WP:V explicitly states that the criterion for inclusion is "not whether we think it is true""
These were comments by respected, well-known editors and admins – Sandstein, SoWhy, Jennavecia, Unitanode and others – who all took WP:V to mean that "truth does not matter; even if it's wrong, we must keep it". (Some disagreed with that, but they all believed that's what "verifiability not truth" meant.)
This mindset is particularly pernicious in cases of poor-quality journalism, like the Daily Mail case that's just been discussed on Jimbo's talk page. Because a false allegation was verifiably published in one paper, it stayed in a BLP for more than a year, despite all the warning signs having been there in the original Daily Mail article (no named source, weasel wording "it has been reported", "is said to", "a friend said", etc.). The editor who took it out was warned, and established Wikipedians put the claim back in time and again – a false claim that apparently nearly ruined an innocent man's life and marriage.
WP:V was never designed to mean that truth does not matter, and that editorial judgment in dealing with tabloid claims is a policy violation: it was supposed to mean "You believing it is true it is not enough for us to let you write it into an article. You must have a reliable source other than your personal knowledge or belief." The above proposal restores the original purpose of this policy, and it remains just as sharp vis-a-vis the problem that we both care about: "the perennial problem of editors adding unsourced claims on the grounds that "the claim is true" (ie they believe the claim to be true)." The proposed wording still makes clear that "this is NOT ALLOWED", by stating "it is not enough for an editor to assert that it is true." --JN466 01:38, 13 May 2011 (UTC)
Jay, a suggestion: rather than trying to change the lead here, why not write an essay about this? I suggest this because I think you'll find writing it (and covering all bases) will be harder than it sounds. Then, using that essay—if it works—we can try to summarize its key points in a proposal for a new section in this policy, if it could be written carefully enough so that it wouldn't contradict other policies and the rest of this one. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 01:48, 13 May 2011 (UTC)
You'll have to convince me of the necessity to do so. I think The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. Any facts or opinions included in Wikipedia must already have been published by a reliable source; it is not enough for an editor to assert that something is true. covers all the bases that we want and need to cover here. What do you feel is missing? --JN466 01:57, 13 May 2011 (UTC)
@Jayen466, I know you mean well, but as long as the Toxic Triad is retained it doesn't matter how much we faff about on the edges. Short Brigade Harvester Boris (talk) 01:53, 13 May 2011 (UTC)
The proposal doesn't go far enough, but it's a baby step in the right direction. We should go with it. The above arguments about the problems with the current version don't even get into the most pervasive problems where this more subtly contributes to the problems. On common one is to say that a statement generally acknowledged to be false should be kept because it is published in a wp: "reliable" source. I'm engaged in one of those right now. Accuracy is not a point of contention or debate, it is simply claimed to be irrelevant. As as result it is taking hours of time to get a patently false statement even qualified, much less removed. The badly constructed wording of parts of wp:ver/wp:nor, particularly the opening sentence contributes to these problems. North8000 (talk) 02:18, 13 May 2011 (UTC)
To be honest, I don't see any substantive difference at all between the current wording and the proposed revision. The revision simply uses slightly different words, in a slightly different grammatical construction. Short Brigade Harvester Boris (talk) 02:30, 13 May 2011 (UTC)
The difference is that the present formulation outlaws both assertions of correctness by editors, and assertions of outright falsehood or irresponsible tabloid journalism ("whether you think it's true does not matter; it's been published in a reliable source, so therefore it stays"). The proposed formulation outlaws assertions of correctness, i.e. prevents the addition of unsourced material, but it does not outlaw the removal of sourced material based on merit and editor consensus.
We have to be clear here what our policies are for: The purpose of WP:V policy is to prevent the addition of unsourced material. Whether deletion of reliably sourced material is appropriate or not is a case for WP:BLP, WP:NPOV, WP:DUE, and WP:COATRACK, not WP:V. --JN466 02:41, 13 May 2011 (UTC)
Sorry, I can't discern the distinction outlined in your first paragraph in the proposed wording no matter how hard I try. Maybe I'm just dense. Short Brigade Harvester Boris (talk) 02:53, 13 May 2011 (UTC)
If I understand correctly, the current version allows the addition of material that is verifiable but for which the editor may not have a source in mind. The proposed version requires that every addition has to have a an actual published source before it's added.   Will Beback  talk  05:08, 13 May 2011 (UTC)

(edit conflict)

Well, assume you're a relatively new editor contesting the validity of a source; either because it's in obvious error, or because it's too poorly researched to support the assertion made in the article. For example, assume a reliable source reports something like, "Anonymous Twitter user X has said living person Y likes whipping gay prostitutes. The tweet has gone viral."
This presently forms the basis for a "Sexuality" section in Y's BLP ("The New York Times reported in 2010 that according to a viral Twitter post, Y likes whipping gay prostitutes"). You propose removing the material, but another editor replies, "Look, mate, it's reliably sourced and verifiable. Whether editors like you think it's true or not doesn't come into it. I don't think it's true myself, but what can we do? Verifiability, not truth." To back up their point, they quote "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." at you. They're making out that your wanting to remove the "Sexuality" section in Y's BLP makes you a WP:V policy violator.
Now assume the policy bit they're quoting at you is "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. Any material in Wikipedia must already have been published by a reliable source; it is not enough for an editor to assert that it is true." They can't argue now that your editorial judgment that a viral tweet says nothing of any encyclopedic relevance at all about Y's sexuality is a policy violation, because that phrase, "not whether editors think it is true" is no longer there to support that argument. You're still not home and dry perhaps, but if you know your WP:DUE and WP:BLP, you can fight your corner without being quite so convincingly being accused of being a policy violator, or even ending up believing yourself that you just tried to subvert an important Wikipedia policy. --JN466 05:28, 13 May 2011 (UTC)

Proposal 43 and variants[edit]

OK, I've resurrected this as I think it is the best one so far, and it got lost in walls of text from Wikipedia_talk:Verifiability/Archive_48#Proposal_43. Casliber (talk · contribs) 10:56, 13 May 2011 (UTC)

  • All material included in Wikipedia must be able to be verified in a published, reliable source. This means that it is not sufficient for information to be true; editors must be able to check that a reputable source says it is true. Verifiability is a threshold for inclusion--a necessary condition which must be met before other considerations come into play. This policy does not mean that any edit which is verifiable must be included; other considerations such as length, relevance, weight, point of view, availability of better sources, notability of the subject, and editorial discretion are also considered when determining if information should be added. Editors should consider all aspects of a source before using it, so long as they do not engage in original research when doing so.
This is good. See next post. North8000 (talk) 11:12, 13 May 2011 (UTC)
  • Trivial change: the first "which" would better read "that". Otherwise good.—S Marshall T/C 12:24, 13 May 2011 (UTC)
    I made the change in the copy below, all should feel free to make more changes in that copy. North8000 (talk) 12:56, 13 May 2011 (UTC)
  • Well, it's fixable. Change "editors must be able" to "readers must be able". Otherwise citations wouldn't belong in articlespace. Change "a necessary condition which must be met before other considerations come into play" to "necessary, but not sufficient, for inclusion" just to keep it simpler. Change "other considerations such as length, relevance, weight, point of view, availability of better sources, notability of the subject, and editorial discretion are also considered" to "other characteristics are also considered" to avoid the misplaced laundry list. LeadSongDog come howl! 14:01, 13 May 2011 (UTC)
    made the editor->reader change below. I don't think "characteristics" is the right word there. Left it to others to make any other changes.
  • Support. Fully agree with the message communicated by this proposal. It's exactly what WP:V should say, in a nutshell. --JN466 14:15, 13 May 2011 (UTC)
  • Support. Yes. And again, to avoid wall-of-text, a paragraph break is needed, and perhaps the point that we're talking verifiability not verification, in the sense of "citation is easy to find if not given." That is, we don't need a citation that the Sun is larger than the Earth. We do need a citation that Ganymede is larger than Mercury and Titan. Thus: SBHarris 17:39, 13 May 2011 (UTC)

All material included in Wikipedia must be able to be verifiable in a published, reliable source. This means that it is not sufficient for information to be true; editors must be able to check that a reputable source says it is true. If a citation for the material is not immediately given, the material must be of such a universally-accepted nature that a citation would be easy to find.

Verifiability is a threshold for inclusion--a necessary condition that must be met before other considerations come into play. This policy does not mean that any edit which is verifiable must be included; other considerations such as length, relevance, weight, point of view, availability of better sources, notability of the subject, and editorial discretion are also considered when determining if information should be added. Editors should consider all aspects of a source before using it, so long as they do not engage in original research when doing so.

More polls: First sentence[edit]

Proposal for a change in the first sentence[edit]

Shall we remove the words "not truth" from the first sentence of Wikipedia:Verifiability? 20:32, 10 June 2011 (UTC)

I've been gone and it got archived under the 5 day setting, but below is the lead proposal that emerged from the process here over the last few months. So now it is time to propose the change, with the alternative being "no change" We discussed the desirability of casting a wider net for input (which also means a longer time period for input) Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 14:01, 10 June 2011 (UTC)


Replace the entire first (one sentence) paragraph of wp:ver with:

The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability; that is, whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source. No other consideration, such as assertions of truth, is a substitute for verifiability.1
1.^ For continuity, the previous version of this text read, "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."

The footnote would go in the notes section at the end of the policy and remain longer term.


  1. Support This change strengthens wp:verifiability by providing a clearer statement. At same time it corrects the problem that the current wording disparages the concept of striving for accuracy, and the negative impacts that such has had. The disparagement is indirect here, but much worse when that portion is taken out of context and used as a chant, as it often is. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 14:01, 10 June 2011 (UTC)
  2. Support I think it's much clearer than the the current version. Laurent (talk) 14:08, 10 June 2011 (UTC)
  3. Support as a move in the right direction (though there are still things wrong with it, as I have pointed out many times).--Kotniski (talk) 14:14, 10 June 2011 (UTC)
  4. Support. My position is that this change is necessary but not sufficient, and I would prefer to see the word "threshold" changed as well.—S Marshall T/C 20:56, 10 June 2011 (UTC)
  5. Support - an improvement - as I have said on this page before, the construction of a false dichotomy between "truth" and "verifiability" is misleading. Casliber (talk · contribs) 22:52, 10 June 2011 (UTC)
  6. Support; many people here seem to fundamentally misunderstand what "verifiability, not truth" means, and it causes far more problems than it should. The proposed wording will eliminate that problem, and it won't enable the "truth warriors" because it says the exact same thing (that information must be verifiable) without allowing for the opposite extreme (people with a severe case of literal thinking who believe "verifiability" means we must source everything to secondary sources, when sometimes a primary source is more reliable, and that we have no respect for the truth and blindly follow the sources even when they're obviously wrong) to impose their standards. The Blade of the Northern Lights (話して下さい) 23:35, 10 June 2011 (UTC)
  7. Support. In general, we do care that our articles are accurate, not just verifiable. The "not truth" language causes more confusion than it solves. — Carl (CBM · talk) 02:15, 11 June 2011 (UTC)
  8. Support  (1) The lede states with emphasis that what we want in Wikipedia is "not truth".  It appears that some editors really believe that "not truth" is acceptable for the content of articles.  (2) The current text is not useful to explain to a reasonable editor why he/she can't just fix an article to say what a consensus of editors agree is true.  These are both unintended consequences of using a figure of speech in technical writing.  The solution is to remove "not truth" from what verifiability is about, and let WP:Editing policy bear the weight where it says, "on Wikipedia a lack of information is better than misleading or false information".  Unscintillating (talk) 00:59, 12 June 2011 (UTC)
  9. Support. It is my opinion that this is wording has been responsible for much of the argumentation and downright silliness on en:wp. John lilburne (talk) 16:32, 12 June 2011 (UTC)
  10. support. heaven forbid wp be accused of truth. Darkstar1st (talk) 16:52, 12 June 2011 (UTC)
  11. Support This version says the same thing as the prior did, just in a more explanatory fashion than the often confused and misused "Verifiability, not truth" statement. Might I also note that, looking through the first five archives of this page, I saw no consensus or discussion at all about the addition of the statement or the section, which was added by Slimvirgin back in 2005. SilverserenC 19:42, 12 June 2011 (UTC)
  12. Support It's an improvement. The place for iconic crap is T-shirts and tourist traps. SBHarris 22:02, 12 June 2011 (UTC)
  13. Support. I see more and more established editors arguing that striving for truth is not necessary, all we have to do is make sure someone else has said it before. That attitude fosters poor editorial judgment, given how often newspapers (and other sources) get things wrong. It's a vital change for this project. See WP:OTTO. --JN466 22:39, 12 June 2011 (UTC)
  14. Support. The addendum "not truth" is redundant, potentially misleading, and does appear to have misled some editors into holding the absurd notion that an untrue statement can be "verifiable". By the standard definition given in any decent dictionary, verifiability is a stronger notion than truth and automatically implies it—it's simply impossible to verify something that isn't true. Strictly speaking, what you verify when you check a source which is cited as justifying an assertion of a fact X is not the fact X itself, but the fact that the source asserts X. If many reliable sources assert X and none contradict it, or even if a single highly authoritative source asserts X, and there is no other reason to suspect that X is false, it's reasonable to take X as having been provisionally verified. But if further evidence (which, for Wikipedia's purposes has to take the form of citable, reliable sources) were to be found to cast doubt on the truth of X it would then be no longer justifiable to claim that X itself is verifiable merely because there are some reliable sources which assert it. David Wilson (talk · cont) 17:56, 13 June 2011 (UTC)
  15. Support, per most of the arguments above, but I do think that voting on such proposals is not enough to change things; what is needed is to come up with a new draft for the entire policy page, perhaps also NOR and the other core policies, and put those to a vote. Count Iblis (talk) 18:26, 13 June 2011 (UTC)
  16. Support. Either remove it or change it to something along the lines of "Verifability, just as much as truth". Like Casliber points out, the current wording suggests a false dichotomy, where both verifiability and truth together should be the basis for the inclusion of any assertion. The current wording is the second most frequently abused formulations in all P&G, right after the fictitious "​neutral" point of view. -- (talk) 14:45, 15 June 2011 (UTC)
  17. Support. I don't much care whether it is perfect. It is a lot better. Nurg (talk) 00:40, 25 June 2011 (UTC)
  18. Support It's clearer, and so more immediately-understandable; it's not perfect, but it's definitely an improvement. Nothing stopping us progressing towards still more improvement, and I think a first step towards perfect is always a good idea. Pesky (talkstalk!) 04:05, 5 July 2011 (UTC)


  1. Oppose. There is already a straw poll at the top of this page that gained no consensus for change. This may seem like a small tweak, but it's a significant change in emphasis from the current first sentence. The current version has had consensus for years and reads: "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." The phrase "Verifiability, not truth" is iconic as a representation of Wikipedia's sourcing and neutrality standards, and there would have to be strong and wide consensus to change it. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 15:41, 10 June 2011 (UTC)
  2. Oppose -- as things stand Wikipedia gets warriors who are sure they know what the truth is; WP:V is an essential tool for ensuring that articles are written in ways that reflect sources rather than editors' beliefs about truths. As SV says, the proposed change seems small but is enormously consequential and should not be adopted lightly; it might seem like a way to solve some problems, but unintended consequences loom large here. Nomoskedasticity (talk) 20:42, 10 June 2011 (UTC)
  3. Oppose, this needs to stand as-is, as Slim and Nomoskedasticity point out, this is a very consequential change for the policy that will do nothing but enable the truth-warriors. Verifiability, not truth is an important touchstone for the inclusion of material in Wikipedia and shouldn't be diminished by this major change in wording. Dreadstar 21:02, 10 June 2011 (UTC)
  4. Oppose. I feel very strongly that the phrase "verifiability, not truth" is one of the most powerful ideas behind the success of Wikipedia. It's counter-intuitive to new editors, and the ability to explain it to them—as clearly as possible—has been invaluable countless times in avoiding needless disputes. --Tryptofish (talk) 22:05, 10 June 2011 (UTC)
  5. Oppose. It's not broke, so don't fix it. A Quest For Knowledge (talk) 22:26, 10 June 2011 (UTC)
  6. Oppose, "Verifiability, not truth" is a good touchstone, I see no gain from the change proposed. --Nuujinn (talk) 22:36, 10 June 2011 (UTC)
  7. Oppose because the principle that "just because it's true doesn't make it fit for Wikipedia" is rather important and oft-quoted. ╟─TreasuryTagRegent─╢ 22:40, 10 June 2011 (UTC)
  8. Oppose—the policy has long been "verifiability, not truth" and that's an important distinction that's been enshrined in our culture around here. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Imzadi1979 (talkcontribs) 23:02, 10 June 2011 (UTC)
  9. Oppose - Prefer the current language. This is a vital phrase in combating POV warriors and fringe theory pushers. Blueboar (talk) 00:18, 11 June 2011 (UTC)
  10. Oppose Not broke, don't fix. AndyTheGrump (talk) 22:22, 11 June 2011 (UTC)
  11. Oppose nothing wrong with the current wording. --Six words (talk) 23:25, 11 June 2011 (UTC)
  12. Oppose for reasons informed by lessons learned the hard way --Tenmei (talk) 01:28, 12 June 2011 (UTC)
  13. Oppose - the phrase has been a policy since 2005 (originally in WP:NOR).[18] I don't see a strong enough reason to delete this very stable part of a core policy.   Will Beback  talk  03:00, 12 June 2011 (UTC)
  14. Oppose. Current wording is an essential part of policy, removing it will open the floodgates to endless wars among different individuals each possessing their own personal TRUTH™. Jayjg (talk) 04:25, 12 June 2011 (UTC)
  15. Oppose - I think the current statement is essential to WP. -- Donald Albury 20:49, 12 June 2011 (UTC)
  16. Oppose the present wording has done us very good service, and built up a large body of explanations and interpretation, which we should not lose. (Like others here, I refer to Slimvirgin's statement in the poll in the prior section as the best explanation) DGG ( talk ) 21:12, 12 June 2011 (UTC) DGG ( talk ) 02:22, 20 June 2011 (UTC)
  17. Oppose per Andy Slrubenstein | Talk 01:12, 17 June 2011 (UTC)
  18. Oppose. per Slimvirgin. There is no problem to be fixed. The text says what it means, it means what it says, and it says it well. BECritical__Talk 01:44, 18 June 2011 (UTC)
  19. Oppose It misses an essential point, that for our collaborative Wikipedia project to work, editors must put aside thoughts about the truth of a matter and concentrate on what is in reliable sources. LK (talk) 06:29, 27 June 2011 (UTC)
  20. Oppose — V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 05:09, 28 June 2011 (UTC)

Additional comments and discussions[edit]

Slim, that straw poll was farther reaching. A "yes" meant agreeing with two declarations, one that the (overall) first sentence is problematic, and second that it needs to be rewritten. And even then half of everybody said yes. And, at the time, without any specific proposal; this is a very mild one. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 16:16, 10 June 2011 (UTC) Italic text

The poll asked whether the first sentence ought to be changed. It gained no consensus, and that's only on this page. You would need a strong consensus (significantly above two thirds) to remove "verifiability, not truth," which is a central idea in WP's policies, and you would need consensus far beyond this page. Lots of people have making that point for a few months, North. :) SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS
Surely if it really is a central Wikipedia idea, it should be drawing in more than one-third support? Or to put it another way, if it only has the grudging support of about a half (or fewer) of the people who comment, it ought to be relegated from its position at the top of what is advertised as a key policy page?--Kotniski (talk) 17:30, 10 June 2011 (UTC)
The problem, as you know, is that a tiny number of you have been going on about this for months, and it wears most people down, who either don't bother to comment or comment once then wander off. That's why wide input is needed for fundamental changes to core policy, as a safeguard against the kind of thing that's been happening here. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 17:36, 10 June 2011 (UTC)
It's hardly a fundamental change to policy - we all know what it's supposed to say (more or less), it would just be preferable to say it more clearly and accurately. Anyway, you seem to be voting oppose without any reason except that you expect people not to support it or you don't expect wide input, which seems rather premature (these are points to be made when the discussion comes to be closed). Do you have any argument for preferring the present wording - which tells people that we fundamentally don't care about the truth of what we write?--Kotniski (talk) 17:45, 10 June 2011 (UTC)
Slim, that's not what the straw poll question said if you read it closely. Second, I agree with Kotniski that this is not a change in policy, it's just a change in wording. If every change in wp:ver counts as change in policy, then you have changed the policy 5 times in the last 10 days. Third, you are bringing up that double standard again, but this even goes along with that, saying to cast a wide net for feedback and give time for lots of feedback. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 18:02, 10 June 2011 (UTC)
You don't have to read the poll question closely, North. It asked whether the first sentence needed to be rewritten. It isn't reasonable to keep on ignoring people when they say no. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 18:08, 10 June 2011 (UTC)
Well, it's written for all to see, and we are describing the questions and result very differently. I say that a "yes" also required agreeing that the current wording is problematic, you say not. I guess we need to agree to disagree and let folks read it for themselves. Second, I resent your characterization of this as "ignoring people when they say no" and feel that there is no basis for such a strong and nasty statement, or even a milder version of it. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 18:55, 10 June 2011 (UTC)
SV we have a prime example of this nonsense festering its way though the santorum pages. One side has a bevy of sources using the the word and describing it as a neologism, whilst the expert opinion on the subject Partridge says it is NOT a neologism as it has not gained widespread usage. Which prevails RS or truth? NOT-TRUTH is fine for including articles on the paranormal and rejecting hearsay, it is not so good when it is being used to push an agenda. John lilburne (talk) 19:37, 12 June 2011 (UTC)
  • Doesn't go far enough for me. A corrected first sentence should replace the word "threshold".—S Marshall T/C 19:36, 10 June 2011 (UTC)
So this is a baby step in that direction.  :-) North8000 (talk) 20:02, 10 June 2011 (UTC)
I'm glad you've confirmed that you're trying to change things significantly bit by bit, so the lobster doesn't notice he's being boiled. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 20:09, 10 June 2011 (UTC)
I meant that as a way for S Marshall to potentially view this with respect to their comment. Further changes on this part would not be on my radar screen. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 20:38, 10 June 2011 (UTC)
It's the third time in the last few weeks I've seen you use the term "baby steps" to try to persuade people to support your changes to the policy. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 20:42, 10 June 2011 (UTC)
I consider taking a small safe step to be a good concept. I had a proposal in the list but this one was somebody else's. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 20:53, 10 June 2011 (UTC)
However, this is a huge, unsafe step. Jayjg (talk) 04:28, 12 June 2011 (UTC)
Where's Crum? Short Brigade Harvester Boris (talk) 04:34, 12 June 2011 (UTC)

Can someone point to evidence that the current wording is actually causing confusion? I'm not really convinced there's a problem that needs to be solved. Mlm42 (talk) 19:56, 11 June 2011 (UTC)

IMHO it's pervasive in WP that once a situation starts getting contentious and moves into wikilawyer warfare, the idea of striving for accuracy becomes totally rejectable. And people keep pushing and mistakenly getting the impression that the Wikipedia/Wikimedia mission rejects the idea of striving for accuracy. This is NOT true, that impression comes from the faulty concept of trying to reverse engineer a mission statement out of imperfectly worded policies, which is backwards, because policies are supposed to implement the mission on objectives, not define them. And this sentence which for some inexplicable reason feels the need to put a "not" statement into a statement of what IS required has contributed to that. And so IMHO every one of the zillions of statements when someone discounts the idea / goal of striving for accuracy is an example of a problem that this sentence contributes to. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 20:11, 11 June 2011 (UTC)
Well. Ok, but in terms of the wording, many of us simply do not see the problem you see, and these discussions have been going on for quite a while now. There's nothing wrong with the position that if there's no problem to fix, leave it alone. I just don't see any consensus developing here. --Nuujinn (talk) 20:41, 11 June 2011 (UTC)
So... you don't have any evidence it's actually causing confusion? Jayjg (talk) 04:28, 12 June 2011 (UTC)
To me, the proposed rewording has an identical meaning to the current version. The main difference between the two is that the current version has more emphasis placed on the contrast between verifiability and truth.. and I think it's important to emphasize that "verifiability" and "truth" are distinct concepts. The current wording does that well, as soon as possible. Mlm42 (talk) 01:35, 12 June 2011 (UTC)
On another point, I'm a little concerned that the line "whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published" is going to be misinterpreted as requiring free, online sources, or as requiring inline citations for everything (you know, because none of our readers know how to ask Mr Google whether a source exists). I'm not actually convinced that the primary purpose of citing our sources is to let the readers check anything. I think it's primary purpose is to help editors check the material. WhatamIdoing (talk) 02:19, 12 June 2011 (UTC)
That's not a change; that exact wording is in the current first sentence of the policy. North8000 (talk) 11:05, 12 June 2011 (UTC)
True, but it still worries me. We've recently seen people fussing about non-English sources because they can't check the sources, and the demands for free, online sources have been so persistent that it's enshrined on the list. IMO "users" would be more appropriate than "readers", if we're going to have this. WhatamIdoing (talk) 21:54, 12 June 2011 (UTC)

Reading the comments of those who support the proposal, and trying to see where they are coming from, I think part of the disagreement comes from the very reasonable concern that Wikipedia should not be implying that "not truth" is actually something we want. We want the truth as reliable sources see it, but not as Wikipedia editors see it. Consequently, what Wikipedia editors are tasked with doing is to find "verifiability, not truth", but this is done in search for what will be true. As many of us who oppose the proposal have said, if we ditch the "not truth" wording, we will open a floodgate of editors who want to push their versions of The Truth. Instead, would some sort of clarifying sentence, added after, be the way to make clear that we do not mean that we want "not truth"? I haven't thought through how to word it, but I think clarification may be helpful here. --Tryptofish (talk) 17:44, 12 June 2011 (UTC)

Seems reasonable to me. --Nuujinn (talk) 19:40, 12 June 2011 (UTC)
Seems reasonable to me as well and a possible middle ground.....where does that leave us on this? Wish you were there when we were developing/vetting proposals. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 11:09, 13 June 2011 (UTC)

The main issue with the current wording of the sentence and the better wording of this proposal, with the use of the word "assertions", is that the "iconic" statement seems to be saying that Wikipedia is fine with publishing lies, just so long as they are lies obtained from other people. I would hope that this is certainly not true. There is a reason why the term Wikiality was ever created in the first place, even if it was meant as a joke. We need to have an explanatory first sentence that explains what we mean by verifiability. We don't need a catchy little statement that is often abused and mocked for its ridiculousness. The question is, sure the statement Verifiability, not truth may be iconic, but do we really want to be iconic for a badly worded, mocked statement? SilverserenC 21:26, 12 June 2011 (UTC)

Policy by mockery? We shouldn't make policy based on whether mockery exists, but we should consider whether the mockery is based on a valid criticism. --Tryptofish (talk) 21:54, 12 June 2011 (UTC)
FWIW, I love that catchy little statement, both in terms of the rhetoric and for the bulwark it provides against those who know the Truth. It's like WP's little black dress. I suppose I have read too much pragmatism. --Nuujinn (talk) 22:03, 12 June 2011 (UTC)
Obviously we shouldn't be making policy based on mockery, but it is based on a valid point. As has been pointed out before, just look at WP:OTTO. If we truly followed through with the Verifiability, not truth statement, then of course we should make that an article, since it's verified, even if it is an absolute and utter lie. Really, if we have to have some sort of statement, Truth through Verifiability would be much more conducive toward what this encyclopedia is trying to do. All in all though, I don't think we need catchy statements for everything, I think for this sort of policy, we need straightforward, explanatory sentences that fully explain how this policy should be used. SilverserenC 23:14, 12 June 2011 (UTC)

Unless I missed it, I haven't seen anyone provide a link to an argument that would have been avoided with the new wording? I think several editors (like me) haven't seen such an argument. The main case for the new wording appears to be that it will prevent some arguments from happening.. so I don't think it's too much to ask for links to a few good examples? Mlm42 (talk) 04:46, 13 June 2011 (UTC)

If one realizes that this one sentence is just contributory (not single-handedly holding the smoking gun) I could give you hundreds of examples, or start with a few. But it should be on the basis of the material hopefully being informative rather than for this User:North8000/Page2#Useful method to take a whack at any thought. Sincerely,North8000 (talk) 10:56, 13 June 2011 (UTC)
Just a few examples would be nice.. at the moment I'm taking it on faith that there exist any examples at all.. Mlm42 (talk) 15:33, 13 June 2011 (UTC)
" ... we do not especially care about truth, merely verifiability"
"Yes, the coverage may be wrong, but WP:V's instruction to aim for "verifiability, not truth" does not contain an exception for issues about which we assume to know the (sadly unverifiable) truth"
"It doesn't matter whether it's true or not. "Verifiability, not truth" is the policy."
" ... Wikipedia cares about verifiability not truth."
"I don't really care if any of this is true or not; Wikipedia is based on verifiability, not truth"
"Our policy has been explained to you: we want verifiability, not truth"
David Wilson (talk · cont) 15:12, 15 June 2011 (UTC)
Thanks; but to me, at first glance, all of these editors appear to be correctly applying the policy? If anything, these examples show how useful and effective the current wording is.. Mlm42 (talk) 15:35, 15 June 2011 (UTC)
I agree, and also note that verifiability policy is not the main problem in most of those cases--mostly the contentions is arising from poor sources, poor application of source, OR and bad behaviour in general. --Nuujinn (talk) 15:59, 15 June 2011 (UTC)
There still is a big problem here, let me give another example, you may need to browse around this diff to get the full picture here. Count Iblis (talk) 16:13, 15 June 2011 (UTC)
This example is as excellent as it is scary. -- (talk) 16:29, 15 June 2011 (UTC)
I'm afraid I can't see how blatantly inconsistent misstatements of the policy can be an illustration of how useful and effective its wording is. All of the above statements appear to me to imply that the people making them think that it's permissible to have untrue statements in Wikipedia articles as long as they're "verifiable". But that's absurd—if something is truly verifiable it can't possibly be false.
In the last four examples, the editors making the statements are very commendably arguing for the exclusion of unsourced or poorly sourced material. However there's no need to resort to patently fallacious statements to do this. All that's necessary is to point out that policy requires the challenged material to be supported with a citation to a reliable source. There's nothing wrong with also pointing out that the truth of the disputed material is not sufficient for it to be included, but to say that it doesn't matter whether the material is true or not as long as it's "verifiable" is simply nonsense.
|n the first two examples, the editors making the statements are arguing for the inclusion of material on the grounds that it's supposedly reliably sourced. I didn't check what the arguments of those challenging the material were for excluding it, but for the purposes of what these examples were intended to illustrate it doesn't really matter. To make one's case for inclusion it's necessary to at least engage and refute the arguments of those who have challenged it. An argument that we're only aiming for "verifiabity" rather than truth can't do that since it's patently fallacious.
David Wilson (talk · cont) 17:39, 15 June 2011 (UTC)
If something is truly verifiable it can't possibly be false. Cue the philosophical discussion! :-) It's worth pointing out that the term "verifiable" in Wikipedia jargon may differ from other definitions. If something is "verifiable" (in Wikipedia jargon), then it's conceivable that it's still false.. after all, reliable sources aren't always right. Anyway, you appear to be disagreeing with the meaning behind the WP:V policy, not merely the choice of wording. Mlm42 (talk) 18:19, 15 June 2011 (UTC)
You are basically agreeing that the examples are valid......that the wording makes the policy get misapplied/misquoted. North8000 (talk) 18:22, 15 June 2011 (UTC)
Am I missing something? I think the policy is being applied correctly in these examples.. Mlm42 (talk) 18:28, 15 June 2011 (UTC)
What I meant was: "All of the above statements appear to me to imply that the people making them think that it's permissible to have untrue statements in Wikipedia articles as long as they're "verifiable"." are examples of the effects of the problematic wording. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 19:32, 15 June 2011 (UTC)
It depends on what you mean by "permissible" and by "untrue statements". For example, if there is reason to doubt a sourced statement, then one way to hedge is to say "Source X said that Y is true". Even if some editors "are 100% sure" that Y is false, that alone is not grounds for removal (maybe this is the point you are disagreeing with?). Specifying the source is one valid way to let an untrue statement into Wikipedia.. after all "Source X said Y is true" could be true without Y being true.
I'm still not convinced the wording is problematic.. the disagreements here appear to be with the meaning of the policy, rather than just the wording in the opening sentence. Mlm42 (talk) 20:25, 15 June 2011 (UTC)
I'm backing off from efforts to change the first sentence. I just wanted to not leave the examples section hanging.
On your last sentence, they always say "the test of how a law is written isn't what a good cop can do with it, it's what a bad cop can do with it. Since in Wikipedia, everybody is made a cop, so that test is even more appropriate here. North8000 (talk) 21:09, 15 June 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────I have no idea where in this discussion / these discussions is the best place to jump in! So I'm just jumping in here ... When I came back to WP after a long break, I had real trouble with the idea of verifiability, not truth. Something had been written in a couple of articles which, although the information came from an obviously 'reliable researcher' (and I'm talking about world-renowned in their field), may not have been the whole truth. There were mutterings from other people who were concerned that the researcher may have wandered into a simple error, and (to my view) those 'mutterings' had a very great deal of validity. But - I couldn't include them in WP, because as at that time - and to the best of my knowledge, still - the places where the mutterings occured weren't as 'reliable' as the published scientific paper. Even though one could point out the obvious, from photographs, to do that fell foul of the WP:OR rule. It's likely that the 'mutterers' are speaking truth - very likely indeed - but as yet WP can publish nothing that challenges the original researcher's published paper, no matter how true the challenge may be. It was very hard for me to understand this;; so I'd be all for some kind of change in the wording. I simply have no idea what that change would be. Pesky (talkstalk!) 04:23, 5 July 2011 (UTC)

A possible middle ground?[edit]

Well this has been out three days. As indicated, the "wide net" includes a substantial time frame for folks who are not the regulars here to have a chance to find out about this and weigh in; I imagine we get the regulars quicker and the non-regulars later. There is a common theme from each of the "sides", on the support side it's that we don't want policy to say we want "not truth", and the "oppose" folks say that phrase is an embedded and useful way to reinforce the verifiability requirement.

One of the "oppose" folks (Tryptofish, 17:44 12 June in discussion section), endorsed by another of the "oppose" folks (Nuujinn) put forth the idea of keeping that phrase, immediately followed by a statement (my interpretation) that such does not mean that Wikipedia does not seek accuracy. Should we consider this possibility as a possible "middle ground" which could also provide a long term resolution of this? Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 15:48, 13 June 2011 (UTC)

Thanks. I note that, below, there is opposition to new proposals, so I certainly don't want to tread on that. But, whenever editors here feel ready, it might be useful to discuss just one sentence to add, without taking anything existing away. --Tryptofish (talk) 21:29, 13 June 2011 (UTC)
Well we went through a full process to get proposals down to one before going out for this, just to avoid such complexities. I was thinking of it as more of a re-direction of the above process. I guess the proposal could be to leave the sentence as is and immediately after it something like "However, accuracy IS a goal of Wikipedia". I was thinking that if a few of the ardent folks from both sides say they like this, we'd float a proposal to both put this in and abort the main RFC. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 21:48, 13 June 2011 (UTC)
North, this has become disruptive. You can't keep filing RfCs, abort them when they don't go your way, file a new one, rinse and repeat. The community supports "verifiability, not truth." Even if everyone on this page were to vote to remove it, it would be meaningless, just as a small group couldn't vote on the NPOV page to remove that WP's articles must be neutral.
Please do as people are asking on this page, and either let the issue drop or open a subpage for further discussion. But we need several months of no more polls or proposals about the first sentence (or second sentence or footnotes that might dilute it, etc etc). This talk page is for discussing the meaning of the policy, usually for the benefit of editors who arrive here with questions. That has barely been possible recently because the page has essentially been hijacked. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 21:57, 13 June 2011 (UTC)
What I was talking about was based on keeping "verifiability, not truth". --Tryptofish (talk) 22:10, 13 June 2011 (UTC)
Slim, I consider your characterization of the situation and my actions to be nasty and inaccurate. We're had a lot of chaos on this topic over the last several months. All that I did was propose and assist a process to methodically and calmly bring it to a real conclusion, one way or another. That was for people to brainstorm and list proposals, then pick ONE which would go to this stage, and then cast wide enough of a net to get it settled either way. I had a proposal in which did not make the final cut; the main RFC proposal IS NOT MINE, it was somebody else's that emerged from that process. Now I was raising the idea of using Tryptofish's proposal as a compromise. North8000 (talk) 22:22, 13 June 2011 (UTC)
It has been brought to a conclusion: there is no consensus for these changes. Maybe revisit the issue in another 6 months? A Quest For Knowledge (talk) 22:28, 13 June 2011 (UTC)
Folks were saying it needs a wide net, which is both time and places. It's only been three days. I think that we should make sure we do that. I just hope that it either clearly passes or clearly fails, I personally don't want to revisit it even in 6 months. Since the process was organized & methodical (unlike the previous random stuff) if we let it play out, I think that most folks on both sides of the issue would be more likely consider it settled under a good process. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 22:39, 13 June 2011 (UTC)
Fine, you have started an RfC, so please let it complete itself without trying to ask yet another question. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 22:55, 13 June 2011 (UTC)

It has been about 3 days since the last vote. I think that the process was methodical and proper-looking enough so that it addresses both the specific proposal and the question of changing the core wording of the first sentence. With a near-dead heat by count (17 support, 18 oppose) this means that there is no consensus to change it, and no consensus to keep as-is. But I think that this means that the status quo prevails. As the one who sort of herded the process leading to this, this was disappointing to me, but also reassuring that it was arrived at via a process that was sufficiently broad and methodical, and I think without significant flaws or bias. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 12:12, 15 June 2011 (UTC)

Proposal for a change in the first sentence #2[edit]

Failed proposal. causa sui (talk) 20:01, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
The following discussion has been closed. Please do not modify it.


Another proposal for re-writing the beginning of this policy. 22:50, 12 June 2011 (UTC)


Replace the first paragraph with:

All material included in Wikipedia must be able to be verified in a published, reliable source. It is not sufficient for information to be true; editors must be able to check that a reputable source says it is true. Verifiability is a threshold for inclusion--a necessary condition which must be met before other considerations come into play. Not every edit which is verifiable must be included; other considerations regarding style and neutrality—length, relevance, weight, point of view, availability of better sources, notability of the subject, and editorial discretion—are important. Editors should consider all aspects of a source and its context before using it, so long as they do not engage in original research when doing so.


  1. Support as nom. I prefer it since I think it says what we mean, reflects actual practice, acknowledges the importance of context and editorial discretion, and is explanatory without being ambiguous. Is there support for such an approach? What are the drawbacks to going this way? Is it an improvement over the current version? I think there is interest in this approach. The drawback is slightly more length (3 sentences). For some, explicitly acknowledging editorial discretion invoke's chaos, but it means considering specifics, style guidelines, and neutrality issues within the bounds of original research. Which is what we regularly already do. I like the link to both NPOV and OR enhances the 'harmony' of the policies. Ocaasi t | c 22:50, 12 June 2011 (UTC)
  2. Support I liked this at the time it was proposed. It spells out what we mean. --JN466 21:07, 13 June 2011 (UTC)
  3. Support But I think that the discussion has sort of temporarily run out of gas. North8000 (talk) 18:01, 19 June 2011 (UTC)
  4. Support : Now it says that truth is a prerequisite, that style matters, that a source may have different interpretations if not exactly copied and i agree. Alkis0 (talkcontribs) 18:30, 30 June 2011 (UTC)


  1. Ocaasi, I accept your intentions are good, but the backdrop to this has been wall-to-wall polls and proposals since April—three already on his page, one just a few days old—several of them put forward by editors who do very little content editing. See here for a list. The result is that people are really fed up with it, and so just a tiny number of editors are left hammering away, which is the very definition of a lack of consensus.

    I think if people want to continue to discuss the first sentence, they should set up a subpage, so that this talk page isn't constantly being hijacked by these polls. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 22:58, 12 June 2011 (UTC)

    SV, two considerations. There was a poll about changing the first sentence in general, then one of two ideas which received some support had a poll. This is the second one (proposal 43). I'm not sure a sub-page is really needed; if this page isn't for discussing changes to the policy, I don't know what it's here for. We keep getting in these disputes, not because people are misguided, but because the policy includes a mix of pith and ambiguity. Why not spell it out, say what we mean? That said, I understand these polls are getting old. I don't have more up my sleeve, but I do see the same issue with WP:V being a bit vague for new editors, and not well integrated with the other policies. So, I'd like to hear what editors think about this proposal. Ocaasi t | c 23:07, 12 June 2011 (UTC)
    But people said no to changing the first sentence, and some others ignored that and went ahead with other polls, which continue. The fact that we have proposal 43 tells you something.

    "Verifiability, not truth" is iconic. It can't be changed by a small group on this page. It has been extremely helpful for years in introducing new editors to the culture. They see that phrase and they suddenly get it. It prevents any group from taking over an article by claiming exclusive access to The Truth. And it reminds us that in many ways we're glorified (and perhaps not even glorified) stenographers. NPOV and "verifiability, not truth" are the backbones of Wikipedia; or as other editors have said, its secret sauce and little black dress. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 23:15, 12 June 2011 (UTC)

    I absolutely agree that the counterintuitive "verifiability, not truth" statement is supremely able to make editors "get it". I "got it" by inwardly rebelling against that statement when I first started editing, then thinking about it, and then suddenly seeing what it meant. I am just concerned that editors these days sometimes use it as a justification to cut short discussion and include material, especially BLP material, that is not reliable, arguing that it does not matter if it is true, because it is verifiable (= someone else has printed it first). Perhaps what we really should be doing is to highlight that error in thinking, and add something to the policy that warns editors not to fall into that trap. "Verifiability, not truth", correctly understood, means "Your knowing it is true isn't enough to put it in Wikipedia." It should not be interpreted to mean, "We don't care if it is true or not, and you should not either. It does not have to be true for us to assert it as truth. It only needs to have been published." --JN466 21:25, 13 June 2011 (UTC)
  2. Oppose, SV has laid out the issue nicely. My suggestion would be for those who have issues with the current wording pick up the notion of working up an essay on the topic. --Nuujinn (talk) 10:22, 13 June 2011 (UTC)
  3. Oppose - This is beginning to become disruptive. How many polls do we have to conduct on this? The horse is dead... stop beating it! It should be obvious by now that any proposal that omits the "Verifiablility, not Truth" language will not gain a consensus. Blueboar (talk) 12:45, 13 June 2011 (UTC)
    If the first sentence of this proposal was "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is Verifiability, not Truth" and then its meaning was actually explained as above, you would consider it? Ocaasi t | c 15:06, 13 June 2011 (UTC)
    Not really... As I have said in the previous six or so polls... I prefer the current language. I do understand the concerns that underlie all this, but I don't see anything that has been proposed so far as being an improvement on what we already have. Blueboar (talk) 15:26, 13 June 2011 (UTC)
  4. Oppose. Dear god, not again. I'm against this for all the reasons already stated in all the other previous discussions. Concur with Blueboar that these repeated polls are starting to become disruptive. A Quest For Knowledge (talk) 12:56, 13 June 2011 (UTC)
  5. Oppose per User:SlimVirgin. It is an absolutely fundamental mantra of Wikipedia, Hell will freeze over before we abandon it. Roger (talk) 18:21, 13 June 2011 (UTC)
  6. Oppose. WP:LETITGO. —chaos5023 (talk) 21:39, 14 June 2011 (UTC)
  7. Polls are evil, but I agree with the previous two comments. --causa sui (talk) 19:40, 16 June 2011 (UTC)
  8. Oppose, I think. Mine eyes are getting bleary and these are looking all alike; over and over again. Unlike the powerful and clear statement "Verifiability, not truth!". Dreadstar 03:21, 17 June 2011 (UTC)
  9. Oppose per what Slimvirgin said. LK (talk) 06:31, 27 June 2011 (UTC)
  10. Strongly oppose. per Roger above. Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 01:11, 28 June 2011 (UTC)

Threaded discussion[edit]

  • It doesn't seem like much of an improvement to me. It perpetuates many of the flaws in the current version—the poor writing, the unnecessary circumlocution, the wordy passive hortatives in place of simple active imperatives, the word "threshold" in legalese (you might as well say "whereas" and "hereinbefore"), and in fact all the problems associated with the way this policy has grown: written by a committee with widely differing agendas about its function and purpose, developed by stealth-edits that are subsequently declared unchallengeable, revised in the light of hard cases, and now followed unthinkingly by the unthinking. You could fix it to an extent just by simplifying the circumlocutions ("be able to be verified"→"be verifiable"; "not every edit which is verifiable"→"not every verifiable edit"; "editors should consider"→"please consider", and so on). But unfortunately, sheer RFC-fatigue is going to mean the Anti-Change Party wins this one. I think that realistically, there's no way to remove the worst phrases from this policy for another few months, and any change will have to be accomplished by stealth-edits, the way so much of this policy was written in the first place.—S Marshall T/C 23:18, 12 June 2011 (UTC)
It's an unfortunate result of the double standard.North8000 (talk) 11:13, 13 June 2011 (UTC)
Are these expressions of Good Faith? --Nuujinn (talk) 14:44, 13 June 2011 (UTC)

All material included in Wikipedia must be able to be verified in a published, reliable source.

The problem here is that you often can't verify statments from single sources. So, "a published, reliable source", should be replaced by "published, reliable sources"

It is not sufficient for information to be true; editors must be able to check that a reputable source says it is true.

Here the problem is that verifiability does not mean that you can find a reputable source that explicitely says that a statement is true. What often happens is that the statement can be verfied from an entire body of literature. This is is often the case for scientific topics. It's not for nothing that it takes some years of study at university to become a scientist. Uncontroversial accepted facts are often not verifiable by direct citations to a source where the fact is presented verbatim.

Verifiability is a threshold for inclusion--a necessary condition which must be met before other considerations come into play. Not every edit which is verifiable must be included; other considerations regarding style and neutrality—length, relevance, weight, point of view, availability of better sources, notability of the subject, and editorial discretion—are important. Editors should consider all aspects of a source and its context before using it, so long as they do not engage in original research when doing so.

This looks ok. but only with the more liberal definition of verifiability. Count Iblis (talk) 22:14, 13 June 2011 (UTC)

The RFC bot is choking because there's more than one open RFC on this page. This one isn't being listed (it's listing the other twice instead), so I'm disabling the RFC tag in the hope that the other one will be correctly listed (once, and with the text rather than just the link). Keeping this one "open" isn't having the desired effect of getting it listed, so turning it off isn't going to make this any less invisible than it already is.

Harej would be happy to hear from anyone who wants to help identify and fix the coding problem; see WT:RFC. WhatamIdoing (talk) 21:31, 8 July 2011 (UTC)

Let's verify that "verifiable" is intimately related to "truth"[edit]

See here:

verify early 14c., from O.Fr. verifier, from M.L. verificare "make true," from L. verus "true" (see very) + root of facere "to make" (see factitious).

And here we see that:

–verb (used with object), -fied, -fy·ing.

1. to prove the truth of, as by evidence or testimony; confirm; substantiate: Events verified his prediction. 2. to ascertain the truth or correctness of, as by examination, research, or comparison: to verify a spelling. 3.

to act as ultimate proof or evidence of; serve to confirm.

Count Iblis (talk) 15:56, 13 July 2011 (UTC)

We use the word in the more legalistic context of "confirmation" ... closer to the third definition you list... "serving to confirm".
Verifiability (on Wikipedia) means that we are able to confirm that something is stated by a reliable source... however, it does not necessarily mean that what is stated by that source is "true". And we definitely don't accept an assertion of "truth" as verifiability. Blueboar (talk) 16:27, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
And we accomplish 2 by verifying assertions with reliable sources, hence verifiability trumps truth in practice. --Nuujinn (talk) 19:28, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
  • Nuujinn and Blueboar, it really does seem to me that you're getting around the word "truth" by using synonyms for "truth". I think you're inserting a semantic layer between "reliably-sourced" and "true", and then mistaking the semantic layer for something that's actually meaningful. But I think these verbal strategies that circumnavigate the word "truth" are unsuccessful, because a source is only "reliable" because it's "accurate", or "widely-accepted" (i.e. "probably true".) Reliability comes from "editorial supervision" and "a reputation for fact checking" (i.e. "more likely to be true.") Everything that makes a source more acceptable on Wikipedia is also, inevitably, something that makes it more likely to be true. Do you see?—S Marshall T/C 20:30, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
I don't think that we're dodging the word "truth". I think that we're acknowledging that what we write might be wrong, and that even if we know and can personally prove, beyond any shadow of doubt, that what we believe is 100% true, that material may not be appropriate for Wikipedia. Two examples might help:
  • I'm wearing a red shirt today. This is 100% true. There is no question of the accuracy of this statement. I could prove it to anyone's satisfaction via photographs and sworn witness statements. But it's not verifiable, so we aren't going to include this. "Being true" is not sufficient. We do not include material because it is true.
  • If Wikipedia were written a thousand years ago, we'd have written that the Sun revolves around the Earth. This is false—but we would have said that. "Being true" is not required. "Being published by reliable sources" is. Given what we know about the accuracy of our sources (you know what they say about newspapers? The 90% you don't know anything about is absolute truth, but the 10% you have personal experience with is completely wrong), I am convinced that Wikipedia contains many outright falsehoods. We're okay with this: we'd rather have a verifiable falsehood than an unverifiable truth. Ideally—and usually—what is verifiable will also be true. But when that ideal state is not available, we choose verifiable lies over unverifiable (alleged) truth. WhatamIdoing (talk) 22:16, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
  • I'm perplexed by this angle, WhatamIdoing. For the avoidance of doubt, my position is that verifiability is a criterion for inclusion on Wikipedia. It's not the only criterion, which is why your red shirt article wouldn't make it in. As you say, being true is not sufficient and we do not include material merely because it's true. But that's entirely tangential to the point I was making.

    Equally, your remarks about our current state of knowledge are also totally accurate—and indeed, you're echoing a remark of mine which User:Peter jackson chose to enshrine as Raul's 301st law. But it's also entirely tangential to the point I was making.

    Will it be helpful if I explain my position again in different words?—S Marshall T/C 22:39, 13 July 2011 (UTC)

Probably not, but go ahead anyway. Blueboar (talk) 23:23, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
I think that the "we don't care if it's false" type of statements are mistakenly created by trying to reverse engineer mission statements from policies and guidelines instead of the reverse which is how it should be done. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 00:04, 14 July 2011 (UTC)

@S Marshall, just to be clear, I'm arguing about what truth is from a philosophical position learned during graduate school where I concentrated on literary theory and philosophy of language. My personal takes on this are mostly informed by Pierce and Rorty, with some Wittgenstein and european phenomenology thrown in. Many of the arguments above seems largely informed by common sense, logic, science and math, which are equally valid approaches. My experience is that defining truth is tricky, and how one makes a determination of what is true and what is not is generally determined by context. Here, we have an operational definition, where we say that we determine what is accurate and true via verifiability, which is a good way to do it because we can come to consensus about what are good sources and what is verifiable. As you can see from the discussion above, we have more trouble defining truth. And if you are familiar with Kuhn, you know that science itself shifts widely from time to time regarding what is true, also based on what can be verified via experimentation. Religion generally defines truth via dogma, but that varies widely. So basically, my take is that in any context, what is true and what is not is determined by an accepted procedure. Where people disagree about the procedure, agreement about truth is not possible, for example, evolutionist versus creationists. So I see a very significant advantage in focussing on the procedural definition, verifiability, and not getting bogged down in discussion about what it true and what is not true. I hope that's clear. --Nuujinn (talk) 00:44, 14 July 2011 (UTC)

Nuujinn, is that the big departure that it appears? .. you appear to be saying that meeting wp:verifiability defines it as true? North8000 (talk) 01:07, 14 July 2011 (UTC)

Time for a little forward progress I don't think that anybody is challenging the following statement: verifiability is a requirement for inclusion. Nothing else, such as truth, is a substitute. So, should we stop "pretending" that that is being debated? North8000 (talk) 01:11, 14 July 2011 (UTC)

The real debate is that should we have wording (or lack of wording) that gets construed as saying that a quest for accuracy is not another legitimate editorial objective?...given that it does NOT override the verifiability requirement? North8000 (talk) 01:16, 14 July 2011 (UTC)

I would hedge that... what we strive for is an accurate presentation of what is said by the various reliable sources that discuss a given topic. This means that when sources disagree (and they often do), we note the disagreement and include discussion of minority views (in accordance with WP:DUE, of course). We don't omit significant minority views, even when we personally believe that the view expressed by the source is wrong. to do this would not accurately present what the sources say. Blueboar (talk) 02:20, 14 July 2011 (UTC)
Exactly. North8000, I am saying that the only way we could possible determine what is true in discussions here, as a practical matter, is by an appeal to reliable sources, and we have a procedure for that. We do not agree about the nature of truth, and historically, truth doesn't cross disciplines well. And I feel strongly enough about that that I do not support removing "verifiability, not truth", period. I am happy to discussion improving the explanation of that phrase, but not changing or removing it. --Nuujinn (talk) 02:39, 14 July 2011 (UTC)
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 03:12, 14 July 2011 (UTC)
Yes. I also feel strongly that the specific language "verifiability, not truth" is a crucial cognitive shock serving the indispensable function of signaling to new Wikipedia editors that the assumptions they came in with are all going to need to be re-examined. I oppose removing it and anticipate continuing to do so. In closing, dude, WP:LETITGO. —chaos5023 (talk) 03:21, 14 July 2011 (UTC)
I still like "Not only true, but verifiably true." We're never going to get 100% agreement on any of this stuff, simple because of the various reasons that have been outlined above; common misconceptions, 'grey area' truths, typos in combination with a paucity of reliable sources, and all that jazz. And we're always going to get the POV warriors, the WikiLawyers, and all the rest that muddies the field. Yes, we can invoke IAR on the odd occasion where something has obviously - or even almost certainly - sprung from a typo in an otherwise reliable source. But - talking of POV pushers and WikiLawyering ..... how about we don't join the ranks here in this discussion :o)? Any small step towards improvement in the ways policies are worded and applied is a small step in the right direction. Pesky (talkstalk!) 08:04, 14 July 2011 (UTC)
Pesky, if you require the material to be "not only true", then you require an editor who believes that homeopathy works to remove all information that says homeopathy is pseudoscientific garbage.
There's no two ways about that: either you are required to include only information that you believe is true, or you are permitted to include information that you do not believe is true. This is an "A/not-A" choice. There is no middle ground.
Wikipedia actually wants people to include (and accept the inclusion of) information that they personally do not believe is true, merely because it is verifiably the position of a sizable body of sources (even if, in the opinion of editors, those sources are absolutely, provably, 100% wrong). We must include information that is verifiable-but-IMO-false. WhatamIdoing (talk) 17:30, 14 July 2011 (UTC)
  • Nuujinn, it's not necessary to discuss the philosophy or linguistics of "truth" if you simply remove the word "truth" from the policy entirely. To be clear, that's what North and I have been banging on about all these months: to remove the words "not truth". There's no need to open that can of worms at all.

    When editors say "verifiability, not truth", what they mean is "verifiability, not truthiness". They don't literally mean that it's okay to add falsehoods to the encyclopaedia. That's what ought to be clear.

    "Verifiability, not truth" is a soundbite. It's popular with contributors to this page because it's helpful in dealing with POV warriors. The only problem with it is the one Hans Adler points out so clearly earlier on this very page, before we got another huge ForestFire of discussion spreading out in all directions (it would really help if one day we could have a discussion that doesn't lose focus, by the way).—S Marshall T/C 11:06, 14 July 2011 (UTC)

    It seems to me that what you're describing is perfectly clear to those who are willing to understand it (the vast majority). There doesn't appear to be a significant issue with this, and it's a pithy statement that is easy to remember and conveys an easily understood concept, so I don't understand what the problem is. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
    — V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 11:56, 14 July 2011 (UTC)
    The problem is that policy should document practice, and in practice, we don't follow "verifiability, not truth". This is what I was talking about further up the page, if you wouldn't mind reading back?—S Marshall T/C 16:10, 14 July 2011 (UTC)
    I didn't really find that argument compelling. While of course people are going to go by truth, there's a workable core policy for contentious cases (those being the only cases policy ever really needs to address) in 1) going by verifiability using reliable sources 2) determining what reliable sources are by consensus. Where your reasoning falls down is when you assert that we're deciding that sources are reliable because they tell the truth; while that may be the motivation for many or most of us, it's not the mechanism by which we make that determination; the mechanism is consensus. —chaos5023 (talk) 17:37, 14 July 2011 (UTC)
    Right, exactly. I'd be interested in your reply to this though, Marshall. I'm not quite sure where it is that we're not seeing eye-to-eye (and I've at least skimmed though, if not actually read, all the discussion above). In my experience we do follow "verifiability, not truth" in practice, so... uh, I don't accept that we're not already documenting practice.
    — V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 18:06, 14 July 2011 (UTC)
    Though this kind of gets to something that's been kicking around my head for a while, which is that there's an enormous disconnect between how Wikipedia operates (and should and must operate) in uncontentious areas and how Wikipedia operates (and should and must operate) in highly contentious areas -- but we act almost ashamed of this, like if we say it out loud then we're articulating a double standard, which I guess is inherently bad, undemocratic and anti-wiki-way. So we get policy that's mostly dedicated to nailing down what to do in the worst of cases -- which people then read, say "oh, I understand now", and proceed to devastate the countryside by applying it consistently. I'm kinda just thinking out loud here, but I think this is a problem. —chaos5023 (talk) 18:17, 14 July 2011 (UTC)
    Yea, I agree, that's something that I've come across as well. Then we end up dealing with what are essentially "policy warriors" running around for a while. I'm not sure that there's a way to resolve that issue, though.
    — V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 18:32, 14 July 2011 (UTC)
From my experience, "policy warriors" inevitably take bits of policy out of context, and (perhaps more importantly) focus on one policy to the exclusion of all the others (thus not seeing how they impact and influence each other). This is a flaw with the editors, not with the policy. The fact is, you can not fully understand what we mean by "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is Verifiability, not truth" without also understanding what we mean by "Editing from a neutral point of view" and "Wikipedia articles must not contain original research"... and vise-versa. All three of our core policies are expressing the same basic concept... just from different angles. Blueboar (talk) 18:47, 14 July 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── We can take (should take?) the line that (for example) "Proponents of homeopathy say that [blah blah blah]", and "Opponents of it say that [blah blah blah]" - both of which statements are verifiably true. We can also say stuff like "The theory of homeopathy is [blah blah blah]" and then say something like "Scientific experiments have shown that [blah blah blah]" - again, both statements verifiably true. This kind of approach can apply perfectly well to all such stuff, and pretty much any other area where POV-warriors start baring their teeth and flexing their claws. I actually think that this kind of approach is exactly what's meant by NPOV - we state the position of both sides but anyone reading it wouldn't be able to tell which side the writer was on (if they were on either). Pesky (talkstalk!) 09:35, 15 July 2011 (UTC)

Not exactly; you're making a WP:GEVAL error. DUE requires us to present the dominant view as being the dominant view. So we do say "Proponents say that it works" but not so much "Opponents say that it doesn't". Instead, we say simply "It doesn't".
If I were a true believer in homeopathy, and Wikipedia's policies said that I must not leave false information in an article, I would feel compelled by the policy to delete the sentence "Homeopathy's efficacy is unsupported by the collective weight of modern scientific research" as IMO false and inaccurate. I would be convinced that you meant me to delete "The modern mechanism proposed by homeopaths, water memory, is considered implausible in that short-range order in water only persists for about 1 picosecond", as I would consider that an extremely plausible mechanism. I would definitely delete "The proposed rationale for these extreme dilutions – that the water contains the "memory" or "vibration" from the diluted ingredient – is counter to the laws of chemistry and physics, such as the law of mass action", since I would consider it a normal working of chemistry and physics.
Under the current system, I would leave these (IMO) "false" statements in the article, because Wikipedia says from the start that it doesn't care whether the material is truly accurate, so long as it accurately reproduces the (IMO) "errors" made by mainstream sources. I would agree that these errors are verifiable, and therefore eligible for inclusion under the current system. WhatamIdoing (talk) 16:40, 15 July 2011 (UTC)

Suggestion for any other changes[edit]

Per ThatPeskyCommoner, I think we've been at loggerheads dealing with "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth" for months now, so let's try a different tack and leave that aside for a reasonable period (I'd say 90 days, but that's just my preference) and focus on the rest of the text. The second half part of the first sentence is "--whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether editors think it is true." What can we do to improve that clause? Do we change that to explain that we use the first clause as a kind of touchstone, or expand it to capture the relationship? Or something else? 10:39, 14 July 2011 (UTC)

I think that that second half of the sentence is fine. I'd suggest a new sentence after that to mitigate the unintended effects of "not truth". Maybe my awkwardly worded "This does not intend the discourage seeking accuracy; verifiability helps achieve accuracy" could be a starting point. North8000 (talk) 11:06, 14 July 2011 (UTC)
That sounds fine to me, fwiw. --Nuujinn (talk) 12:56, 14 July 2011 (UTC)
I would want to tweak the wording... but the concept is good. I could live with something like that. 13:13, 14 July 2011 (UTC)
Maybe just "Verifiability helps achieve accuracy". ? North8000 (talk) 13:28, 14 July 2011 (UTC)
I see where you're going with this, but most of the purpose of "verifiability, not truth" has to do with... avoiding "value judgements". I mean... as editors, we're supposed to be neutral. We're not supposed to be saying "this is what I learned, I know that it's true. This is what should be in the article because it's the truth." That sort of thing should be avoided in all cases (although we'll get there 99.999% of the time anyway just because that's what all of the sources are saying, it's then coming from the sources, not from any particular editors). So... I'm not sure why "a new sentence after that to mitigate the unintended effects of "not truth"." is something that is actually desirable. Actually, I'm somewhat suspicious that adding something there will only create confusion.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 18:14, 14 July 2011 (UTC)
By neutral, do you mean no value judgemet as to whether to put in knowingly wrong or irrelevant sourced material vs. knowingly right or relevant sourced material? And, if so, respectfully, where did you get that from? North8000 (talk) 18:44, 14 July 2011 (UTC)

A comment which may or may not be useful:

Content must be verified per RS, and content must be accurate. For example, that someone is wearing a red short and that is verified creates accurate content. Truth is another issue altogether. Truth is an ultimate, and is also subjective. We shouldn't confuse accuracy with truth. Our article must contain it seems to me content that is both verifiable with the best sources and best editor oversight available to provide the most accurate article possible. Truthfulness doesn't really enter the picture.(olive (talk) 19:23, 14 July 2011 (UTC))

Yes! exactly. Thank you.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 20:41, 14 July 2011 (UTC)

Object lesson[edit]

Here, maybe a firm example will help everyone understand each other better.

NASA, through the Apollo program, landed men on the Moon through the late 60's and early 70's. There's documented proof of this, and it's well accepted that it happened. However, there is a significant minority, world wide, who hold what is a fringe belief that the moon landings never happened. This is a high enough profile fringe theory that not only is it mentioned in the Apollo project article, but it has it's own complete article at Moon landing conspiracy theories. This is the type of article that not only benefits from the "verifiability, not truth" phrase, but it's almost dependent on it.

Wikipedia should not be advocating either for or against those conspiracy theories. That we cover these fringe theories at all can only happen because their existence and the details of their views is verifiable. We're not ignoring the truth, but... Climate change articles are another area that is basically dependent on this, as well. Some of the worst behavior issues that this policy addresses are those of well established editors rather than the fringe theorists or the POV pushers (who have to deal with "no original research" much more than verifiability. There are plenty of well-healed cranks who will publish fringe theory material, after all). Just because these ideas (such as "we didn't land on the Moon" or "CO2 doesn't cause global warming") are wrong doesn't mean that we shouldn't cover them. "Verifiability, not truth" allows for that, and allows the encyclopedia to (for the most part) maintain it's neutrality.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 18:28, 14 July 2011 (UTC)

Both excellent examples. Blueboar (talk) 19:17, 14 July 2011 (UTC)
  • Well, let's run with those examples and explore them in detail, because I think they support my case. There are sources for two views: 1) that the moon landings happened, and 2) that they're a hoax. There are more, and better, sources for view #1.

    Sure enough, Apollo program says that the moon landings happened. It doesn't say that they "allegedly happened". It compares the sources and then, in a series of simple, declarative sentences, takes one side over the other—and contrary to what Ohms Law said above, I was unable to find any mention of view #2 in that article whatsoever.

    Meanwhile, Moon landing conspiracy theories acknowledges that sources for view #2 exist, but in language that clearly distances itself from that view. Again, though there are two kinds of source, Wikipedia clearly decides between them and selects one.

    For the avoidance of doubt my position is that our practice in this is correct, in other words, that the articles we're considering are correctly written. I'm simply pointing out that we do not do what this policy says we're going to do. We compare the sources and decide which are more "accurate", more "reliable", more "trustworthy", or other synonyms for "true".—S Marshall T/C 20:05, 14 July 2011 (UTC)

Edit conflict, wrote this without seeing S Marshall's. ::I think that the Apollo example shows the reverse of what you intended. The editors said that we landed on the moon, they didn't just tally up sources and say that we did and didn't. Being a non-controversial article (for 99% of people) they were able to ignore the "not truth" mantra.
The global warming one is immensely complicated, (starting with "what is the question?") and there is no view which is such a tiny minority in sources that it could be called fringe. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 20:09, 14 July 2011 (UTC)
It looks like the Moon landings articles have slid over the last year or so, unfortunately (I haven't actually worked on them in a while). The Climate Change area is... slightly better (if only because arbcom got involved there, and slapped a couple people upside the head over verifiability). But the reason that I bring up both of these cases is because it illustrates the problem with the approach that "truth is better" that both of you seem to be taking. I don't hold them up as good examples, but as problem areas where "verifiability, not truth" needs to be taken into account (Keep in mind that there's a constant push - pull with what is "undue weight" to consider, as well).
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 20:39, 14 July 2011 (UTC)
  • Ohms Law, the climate change case supports my view. In fact, I specifically cited global warming as supporting my case in this diff, on this page, yesterday. Also, I suspect you may have misunderstood where North8000 and I are coming from when you describe our position as "truth is better". That isn't our position at all. Our position is that "truth" is a problematic concept, meaning as it does different things to different people, which is why we should remove all mention of truth from this policy. And the phrase "not truth" is specifically problematic because it's against the basic purpose of writing an encyclopaedia to publish something false.—S Marshall T/C 21:11, 14 July 2011 (UTC)
    Alright, but the end result is the same. I disagree with your position that all mention of truth should be removed, primarily because "seeking the truth" is the primary problem that we deal with. It's always been a core tenant of Wikipedia that we're about "verifiability, not truth", to the point that it's a mantra now, so... I guess that I don't think that it matters how much it's applied where it needs to be applied most, saying it is still important. The problem that the idea isn't applied as it should be in some cases doesn't mean that we should ditch it, it means that we should discuss the idea further. You guys seem to misunderstand a fundamental pillar of Wikipedia's editing policy, so a bit of education seems to be in order here, to me. I'd be just as much against ditching the idea of "no original research" (by redefining what original research means) as I am to ditching verifiability, which yourself and others are advocating for by seeking to redefine what verifiability means.
    — V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 00:39, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
  • The idea that North8000 and I wish to "ditch verifiability" is a serious mischaracterisation of our good faith intentions. We want verifiability to be a policy, and we want it to say that everything challenged or likely to be challenged must be verifiable by means of an inline citation to a reliable source. Please desist from setting up straw men. The fact that we want to change two particular words that SlimVirgin added, apparently without discussion, in 2005, does not make us weird extremists who want to wreck the encyclopaedia's fundamental structures. Others, as well as you, have accused us of this and I'm growing a little tired of it now. Please stop.

    I also see an attempt to claim that North8000 and I don't understand the policy, which is a claim I've also seen before. That's rather insidious, because it sets you, Ohms law, up as some kind of authority figure or teacher who can "correct" our "misunderstanding". In fact, I think our position shows that North8000 and I have read the policy and found it ambiguous, and we wish, in entirely good faith, to correct it.—S Marshall T/C 07:37, 15 July 2011 (UTC)

Yes, both S Marshall and I have have made it abundantly clear many times over that we support verifiability. How could you possibly get that backwards and say the opposite? Please stop. North8000 (talk) 09:30, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
It's still not clear to me how changing the "Verifiability, not truth" wording would solve any problems. The moon landings example, like other conspiracy theories, is an interesting one. There are people who are convinced that the moon landings didn't happen. Our Wikipedia articles will naturally attract those people, who will come and potentially argue ad nauseam about what the "truth" is. "Verifiability, not truth", is a quick and easy way of dismissing these arguments, instead of wasting time engaging in the arguments. Editor time is valuable, and policies should make it easy for good editors to continue doing good work.
Otherwise, a good editor might be tempted to waste countless hours engaging the conspiracy theorists, and attempting to "prove" that they actually did land on the moon (personally, I'm with Buzz Aldrin, and would want to punch the conspiracy theorists in the face). The point is that the burden should be on the conspiracy theorist. Of course we strive for accuracy - that's obvious. Consider the statements: (1) "Astronauts landed on the moon. Some people think it was a hoax.", and (2) "NASA claims that astronauts landed on the moon, but others disagree." I believe both statements are true, but the first one better reflects the sources. Some people believe that only the second one is true. Fortunately, that doesn't matter, because Verifiability, not Truth, is what's important - so we go with the first statement, and avoid arguing with the conspiracy theorists. (This comment is made independent of what the actual articles currently look like.) Mlm42 (talk) 04:04, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
Errrrm ..... an editor who really understands NPOV writing would surely just act as a reporter of what the theories say, and what the opponents of the theories say? Our job, if we're basically quoting/ re-wording what other people say, is not to make value judgments on what they're saying - just to report it? Pesky (talkstalk!) 09:40, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
Just adding - if I were to say (re the moon landing conspiracies) that "The moon landing conspiracy theories are X,Y and Z, and these are the grounds on which they base those theories [gives grounds, cited, sourced, etc.]". "Opponents of the conspiracy theories state a,b, and c, and these are the grounds on which they base those statements [gives grounds, cited, sourced etc.]" then I very much doubt whether anyone reading this would be able to hazard a guess as to "which side I'm on". I could do exactly the same with almost any other contentious area, and leave readers at a complete loss as to which version I personally 'prefer'. This is what we're supposed to do - present the evidence (being what each side says and why) in such a way that only the evidence itself can sway the reader one way or the other. This is not hard to do - though it can be hard to explain. Pesky (talkstalk!) 09:54, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
So you would re-write the Apollo article to not simply say we landed on the moon? just say there are two points of view (we did and we didn't) and maybe that one is a majority view? North8000 (talk) 10:10, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
The Apollo article itself I would write as reported. I would include a section on the conspiracy theories, and give each point of view 'due weight' (trying to make sure that the coverage of each point of view reflected the percentage of sources which supported that view). Pesky (talkstalk!) 10:40, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
I'm only persisting because we're getting to a core item. My question was about the core statements... would you remove statements which state as fact that we landed a human on the moon? North8000 (talk) 10:49, 15 July 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Personally, no I wouldn't, because of the weight of evidence (including 'scientific weight' and 'reliability' of evidence) points to it having happened. I would have a separate article on the conspiracy theories themselves, including the history of the theories, where they originated, by whom they were originated, and so on - and I'd personally have that as a 'see main' link from the moon landing article, so that people who really wanted the info on the conspiracies could then switch to that article to read up more about them. But that's just what I personally would do - if it's an 80/20 split on the moon landings, I'd weight the article to the 80, and include 20 on the conspiracy theories, with a link to the article on the conspiracy theories. Pesky (talkstalk!) 11:03, 15 July 2011 (UTC)

I think this one is closer to 99/1. So the editors decided that the 99% viewpoint was accurate, and stated what was in those 99% sources as fact, and chose not to use what was in the 1% sources. So they followed both wp:ver, and also exercised judgement in a quest for accuracy. They followed the policies, although they did not follow the pervasive false mantras mis-derived from policies. North8000 (talk) 12:30, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
Pesky's point about Due Weight is the key here... Due weight is an important consideration, not only in how much space we give to various viewpoints, but also in how we present them. We usually present viewpoints that are accepted by significant majorities of reliable sources as being "fact"... we usually present viewpoints with noteworthy minority support as being "Opinion". If the balance of reliable sources expressing the various viewpoints is more evenly split, then we present all viewpoints as being opinion (even the one that has a majority).
Assessing Due Weight is a function of WP:NPOV, and not a function of WP:V... with one important exception: If a viewpoint is not verifiable then we give it no weight at all (i.e. we do not include it... no matter how true we think it may be). That's what we mean by: "The threshold for inclusion is Verifiability, not Truth". Blueboar (talk) 13:01, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
You said that much better than I did! Pesky (talkstalk!) 13:12, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
I agree, well formulated indeed. Also with regard to the discussion concerning fringe and POV-pushers above it is important to note that those guys tend to attack the "not truth but verifibability"-line from both sides. If we put the focus on "truth" (verifiability as "best" approximation of it), they will argue their POV/fringe based on their (fringe) "truth". But if we focus on verifiábility only they will argue their POV/fringe based on (false) sources claiming their "truth" is verifiable. So there is no easy way out here. Though on the verifiability side we can restrain the abuse somewhat by requiring sources to have a high degree of reputability (and accuracy).--Kmhkmh (talk) 13:38, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
We're agreeing except that you are avoiding my point: Would you say that the objective (in this case, where the subject is clearly a matter of fact) of all of what you describe is to put accurate information in Wikipedia, or is that process itself the objective? North8000 (talk) 13:35, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
If it's 99/1, we weight the article 99/1. The article wouldn't be complete if it had no reference at all to the conspiracy theories. Pesky (talkstalk!) 14:02, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
(ec) Yes and no... our objective is to accurately present what the sources say... but it is not our objective to determine whether what the sources say is accurate or not. Blueboar (talk) 14:09, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
But, as exhaustively explained with examples such as Apollo program above, we do make value judgments about sources.—S Marshall T/C 14:21, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
Blueboar, we're getting to the heart of it. Your statement "our objective is to accurately present what the sources say" if taken to mean everything that it could cover, goes far beyond wp:ver which just specifies a criteria for inclusion of material. Where did you get that from? North8000 (talk) 14:32, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
@blueboar: Actually to some degree with we do determine (or better maby care about) whether a source is accurate or not: We do that via source selection, i.e. directly through editorial decision not to use an inaccurate source and indirectly through reputability as a filer or proxy (unreputable sources get ignored). The determination of a source's accuracy is part of an editor's source slection process.--Kmhkmh (talk) 14:34, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
Perhaps... but this is a function of reliability and due weight not verifiability. Let me rephrase what I said above... our objective is to accurately present information related to our subjects... this can mean that we must present information we may personally think is inaccurate. Blueboar (talk) 15:12, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
  • But in practice, where we do present information we believe is inaccurate, we do so in language that distances it. This is in accordance with the example above. We present the mainstream view in the simple declarative (e.g. Apollo program) and the fringe view surrounded by hedges such as "claimed", "allegedly" and "purportedly" (e.g. Moon landing conspiracy theory). Wikipedia always states the mainstream scientific or academic consensus as if it were correct. And it is right that we do so.—S Marshall T/C 15:36, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
Of course. That is how we give an overwhelmingly majority viewpoint its due weight. And, of course, figuring out due weight gets trickier when there is disagreement in the mainstream... at which point we present all viewpoints as "opinion". However... this has nothing to do with "Verifiability not Truth". We still exclude information that is not verifiable (no matter how many editors believe that information to be true). Blueboar (talk) 16:11, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
But that's not the problem. The problem is how to treat information that's verifiable but untrue.—S Marshall T/C 16:17, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
And that the current wording is widely interpreted as outlawing seeking accuracy. North8000 (talk) 16:30, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
"The current wording is widely interpreted as outlawing seeking accuracy." I disagree with this statement. I think most editors are aware that we are striving for accuracy. I would guess that among the public at large (i.e. those not intimately familiar with Wikipedia), the misunderstanding is the other way around: They believe that Wikipedia values Truth over Verifiability. The wording "Verifiability, not truth" is a wake up call for those people. Mlm42 (talk) 17:38, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
That's not always true, actually: We do not always distance ourselves from what we know to be errors. Sometimes what is verifiable is actually false, and is known to an individual editor to be false. I'm sure that I could find examples of editors who are writing within their field and who present the mainstream view, as it's known today, knowing full well that it was actually false in some particular point, and that the sources to demonstrate its falseness were still in the process of being published.
In such a situation, the editor would be entirely correct to write (or to leave in the article) "Last quarter, the company reported that it earned $____", even if he personally knows that revised figures will be announced tomorrow morning. "Truth" is not an excuse for committing original research. WhatamIdoing (talk) 16:52, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
For larger theories/concepts, disputed content or undisclosed (hence unverfiable) information I agree. However for smaller factoids that's not quite true. A more common scenario would be to correct quotes, typos or simple straight forward computation errors in secondary literature. The difference to your example is, that the correctness in such cases is verifiable by checking primary sources or performing a simple computation yourself and not original research either.--Kmhkmh (talk) 17:05, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
Yes, but off-topic: The complaint is about the tiny fraction of material that is either unverifiable-but-true (which we do not include) or verifiable-but-untrue (which we do include).
The trivial case that you describe (the material is not only verifiable-and-true, but also appropriate, encyclopedic, given due weight, on-topic and so forth) is not what's being discussed. WhatamIdoing (talk) 20:12, 15 July 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Blueboar/WhatamIdoing, are you seriously saying that in the part of Wikipedia that works, that for each fact that is put in the editor(s) found and tallied up what all of the sources said on it, found the majority view and then put that in? I assert that here is how it actually usually (= on non-contentious articles) happens: The editor(s) know the topic, which means they are carrying, in their heads, summarized information from dozens or hundreds of sources on the topic. They also know which sources are good, and which are crap ("crap" usually meaning not very useful rather than wrong) They either write the true material and then select and go to good source to cite it, or they select and go to a good source and use it to help write and cite the planned material. Odds are if you pick a sentence from today's FA and trace it back, that it will have come about in this way. North8000 (talk) 17:49, 15 July 2011 (UTC)

"are you seriously saying that in the part of Wikipedia that works, that for each fact that is put in the editor(s) found and tallied up what all of the sources said on it, found the majority view and then put that in?"... Yes, I would say that... on non-controversial topics there is rarely a need for this tally to be spelled out in a formal talk page debate... but it happens never the less. It occurs unconsciously, as the editors do research on their topic. When (as you say) editors "are carrying, in their heads, summarized information from dozens or hundreds of sources" they unconsciously become aware of which views are in the majority and what are in the minority. They mentally tally up what the different sources say, and assess them.
They even come to a conclusion as to which viewpoint they think is "true" (not necessarily the majority view). However, when it comes to writing an article, they must set aside their personal conclusion as to "truth". They must accurately (and neutrally) present all significant views, and give them due weight. They can not only cover the view they agree with (ie think "true"), they must also cover the views they disagree with (ie think are "untrue"). Blueboar (talk) 19:35, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
That's what WP:V in its present wording says they should do, yes. The question, I think, had more to do with how Wikipedia works in practice—where Apollo program says that the moon landing happens and mentions no other possibility; where global warming says very clearly that anthropogenic global warming does take place; where evolution says very clearly that organisms evolve; where taxonomy doesn't mention baraminology; where Elvis Presley says that Elvis is dead; or where Egyptian pyramids unaccountably fails to mention ancient astronauts. I could go on and on.

My point is that in practice, when the chips are down in the face of potential controversy, Wikipedians make judgments about what's true and what isn't, and write their articles accordingly. Policy ought to document practice.—S Marshall T/C 19:54, 15 July 2011 (UTC)

No: "When the chips are down in the face of potential controversy, Wikipedians make judgments about" what's DUE and what isn't. They don't decide what's True™ and what isn't. WhatamIdoing (talk) 20:06, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
The evidence says that contrary to Blueboar's earlier post, Wikipedians certainly don't cover all significant views, WhatamIdoing. The evidence is silent on what judgments Wikipedians make, but I'm personally quite sure that Wikipedians have views on what's true and what isn't. And I'm quite sure that these judgments influence what they write, too.—S Marshall T/C 20:27, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
Ah, I get it. You're pushing for this policy to be more descriptive, rather than being prescriptive. The thing is, on issues of principal such as this, we're actually not descriptive, intentionally so. People edit from a non-neutral perspective all the time as well, but it would be a huge mistake to say "well, we can bend our NPOV policy a bit, since no one wants to follow it about this point". Just because editors, even well-established editors, edit articles to add The Truth™, doesn't make it correct. That's actually the principal reason that I mentioned the Climate Change area, above.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 22:23, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
Well, that's certainly a refreshingly different take on WP:PG, Ohms law.  :-) I'm afraid that it's original research, though; you're inventing a totally novel principle, not documented anywhere else and without any kind of consensus supporting it. In an encyclopaedia that's run according to the five pillars and WP:PG, policy documents practice.—S Marshall T/C 22:59, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
Sorry, but you're flat out wrong on this point. Mistaken, at least. The pillars are non-negotiable. Always have been. Most policy is descriptive, and that's actually one of our principals as well, but there is a prescriptive core to policy, and Verifiability is one of them. That doesn't mean that this policy can't change in minor ways, but it does mean that the essential meaning to it should never change. Go ahead and read 5P, or feel free to ask others about this point elsewhere.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 23:51, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
You're agreeing with me. The pillars are non-negotiable. (They haven't "always been" non-negotiable, actually. The pillars didn't even exist until 2005. They were written after the policies. But they're effectively non-negotiable now.) What I said was that in an encyclopaedia that's run according to the pillars, policy (which is the layer beneath the pillars) is descriptive—including this policy. Do you understand now?—S Marshall T/C 00:26, 16 July 2011 (UTC)
Additionally, it's not what "an editor" does; it's what "all the editors collectively do". Although any given person, for any given point, might not extensively research something to see what "all" the sources say (although for material for which very few sources exist, that is not only possible but actually done, by myself and others), between us all, over the years, that is essentially what is done. We search for sources; we compare the sources; we report the balance of the sources.
None of which really has anything to do with WP:V. All these examples about whether we should mention ancient astronauts in Egyptian pyramids and the like are strictly matters for WP:NPOV. WP:V only concerns itself with whether the thing was said by a source that we could use to support material if that material is included. WP:V does not concern itself with whether that material should be mentioned in ___ article or in ___ manner. WhatamIdoing (talk) 20:06, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
Agreed. What we're talking about is the impact of two words which also have nothing to do with WP:V namely "not truth"  :-) North8000 (talk) 20:21, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
Largely, North8000, but I'd take issue with WhatamIdoing's last sentence too. In its present wording WP:V explicitly empowers editors to add sourced material, and explicitly doesn't care whether that material is true or false.—S Marshall T/C 20:29, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
Yes, but that's because of the limited role that this policy document encompasses. As WhatamIdoing mentioned before, this policy doesn't exist in a vacuum, you need to be aware of NOR, NPOV, IRS, etc... as well (the ideas behind them, at least).
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 22:06, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
... or we could just keep it simple and remove the words "not truth" from the policy. They're only a soundbite, Ohms law. The whole policy makes perfect sense without them.—S Marshall T/C 23:01, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
I disagree. The phrase "Verifiability, not truth" is the policy, for the most part. The rest of the page is there primarily to support that statement.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 23:54, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
The verifiability policy is about the principle that edits must be verifiable, in that anything challenged or likely to be challenged should be supported by an inline citation to a reliable source. Properly understood, it's got nothing to do with truth at all.—S Marshall T/C 00:26, 16 July 2011 (UTC)
Ohms law, honestly, that's so off-the-wall that I don't even know how to respond. Except to say that I think that the other 99.9% of wp:ver shows that to be wrong. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 00:45, 16 July 2011 (UTC)
More in reply to what Marshall said above (I can't find it in the wikitext...), the pillars have always existed, they just didnt' exist as Wikipedia:Five pillars until 2005. And I agree that policy is descriptive, but I don't see how you think that you agree with me when you're saying that the pillars are descriptive as well. You're not making any sense. Anyway, I agree with the section below. Stick → Dead horse. Time to move on.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 01:24, 16 July 2011 (UTC)
Technically, "the pillars" haven't always existed. Various WP:Principles have always existed, but what those principles are, how many there are, and how to write them down has always been a matter of debate. "Five Pillars" happens to be the most popular embodiment of the community's principles, but it's not some sort of fundamental, non-negotiable, can't-exist-without-it page.
In an exactly analogous situation, "Verifiability" hasn't always existed—but the notion that you write down what you can support with a source, rather than what you personally believe is the truth, has long been the policy of the community. The fundamental, non-negotiable what's-in-the-sources-rather-than-what-you-believe idea is the only real policy. This page is merely the community's best effort at writing down the principle for the sake of people who don't already know the real policy. WhatamIdoing (talk) 01:53, 17 July 2011 (UTC)

back to basics[edit]

At this point, I will remind everyone of the primary reason for saying "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is Verifiablity, not truth": If something is not verifiable, you should not add it... even if you are convinced it is 100% true. Blueboar (talk) 00:53, 16 July 2011 (UTC)

Agree. So let's stipulate that so that we don't posit debates that do not exist. North8000 (talk) 01:02, 16 July 2011 (UTC)
But this is part of the debate... this is why I strongly oppose the idea of removing the phrase. In this limited context, I would argue that the phrase is vital to the WP:V policy. Indeed it is the heart and soul of the policy. Perhaps we can better explain it... but it must remain in the policy. Blueboar (talk) 01:06, 16 July 2011 (UTC)
And despite the polls and rfc and months of discussion, there's no consensus to remove it. That horse is dead, let's move on. --Nuujinn (talk) 01:10, 16 July 2011 (UTC)
Also no consensus to keep it. I think we had some "middle ground" ideas of adding an explanatory sentence. But folks saying that such a middle ground compromise is too radical forces folks back to arguing their actual / further-from-the-middle positions. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 01:36, 16 July 2011 (UTC)
Please, show me the policy allows a change on the basis of no consensus. I believe that we've been through enough discussion on changing "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is Verifiablity, not truth" to establish that currently there is absolute no consensus for a change, and continuing to beat that dead horse is not productive. And I'm willing to work on wording in other sections, I'll make some suggestions tomorrow morning. What I see is a continuing effort to try to force a change where no consensus for a change exists. --Nuujinn (talk) 02:03, 16 July 2011 (UTC)
You misunderstood my comment. North8000 (talk) 03:25, 16 July 2011 (UTC)
Then please explain what you meant by "Also no consensus to keep it". --Nuujinn (talk) 04:23, 16 July 2011 (UTC)
First, answering your question, the meaning of consensus is hard to pin down, but it always means a substantial majority. Neither the "change it" nor the "keep it" viewpoint achieved that. Now on to the mis-understood (at best) part. The impasse is about changing that sentence. I brought up the middle ground ideas which are adding an explanatory sentence without changing the one in question. You, with strong words ("beating a dead horse") implied that I was arguing for the change that had the impasse. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 12:38, 16 July 2011 (UTC)
Sorry, that was not directed at you specifically, just in general, I should have been more clear. I was emphasizing what Blueboar said, not responding to your comment on positing debates, and I overreacted to your comment about consensus, please accept my apologies. --Nuujinn (talk) 15:42, 16 July 2011 (UTC)
There's plenty of consensus to keep it. It's there, after all. Has been for years now, and the recent attempts to remove it have obviously raised significant opposition. It's not unanimous as long as you guys persist, but... I mean, there's more people willing to retain the current wording than there is to remove or change it, so in the long run I'm betting that the current wording will stay. By the way, I'm willing to listen to suggestions, or to see changes, which add additional explanation to the paragraph as well. Anything short of changing the phrase itself is probably acceptable, to me.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 02:28, 16 July 2011 (UTC)
I agree, this discussion appears to be going nowhere. It was interesting to explore the relationships between "verifiability", "truth", and "accuracy"; but ultimately the campaign to change the opening sentence (and in particular, remove "not truth") isn't going to succeed without widespread support. At this point, it's obvious that there is not widespread support. It's time to move on. Mlm42 (talk) 02:33, 16 July 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Y'know, I actually think it's too early to decide to quit on this one. There have been some interesting suggestions raised which could be taken further and make for clearer wording / re-wording. I know we're all dead tired of this debate, but it seems a shame to collapse in a heap and leave it just as there's a possibility that we could work together on something that actually makes it better. Pesky (talkstalk!) 06:27, 16 July 2011 (UTC)

In regard to the phrase "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is Verifiablity, not truth", how many more months should we discuss it? I'm game for the rest of the policy, but seriously, how many more months for that particular phrase? --Nuujinn (talk) 06:33, 16 July 2011 (UTC)
Dunno, mate! How does "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is Verifiable truth, not unverifiable truth" grab you? (Bearing in mind that the "verifiable truth" can be "it's true that X person made Y statement or has Z opinion). :o) Pesky (talkstalk!) 06:55, 16 July 2011 (UTC)
Wikipedia:Drop the stick and back slowly away from the horse carcass. Mlm42 (talk) 07:11, 16 July 2011 (UTC)
There are no horse carcasses here, and no sticks.  There are, however, figures of speech (see new section below) including "horse carcass"; and two words, "not truth", ambiguously used as both a literalism and as a figure of speech.  Unscintillating (talk)
It's unfortunate and annoying that a lack of consensus means permanent stagnation, but I agree that this proposal is stuck; thousands of words and nobody's changed their position. However, axiomatically, consensus can change, and the lack of consensus over this particular wording is quite likely to change, over time. I'm sure it will be back.  :-)—S Marshall T/C 08:34, 16 July 2011 (UTC)
Perhaps. But thank you for dropping it... even if only "for now". Blueboar (talk) 12:25, 16 July 2011 (UTC)
The lead says with emphasis that not truth is acceptable if verifiable.  WP:Editing policy states, "...on Wikipedia a lack of information is better than misleading or false information—Wikipedia's reputation as a trusted encyclopedia depends on the information in articles being verifiable and reliable."  As long as we have editors believing that WP:V means that it is not only accepted but expected to include false but verifiable information in Wikipedia's voice, the problem has not gone away.  On the other side of the equation, editors don't get from reading this sentence that accurate information is not acceptable if it is not sourced.  Unscintillating (talk) 16:57, 16 July 2011 (UTC)
No... the emphasis is the reverse... to indicate that assertions of truth are not acceptable if not verifiable. We look to other policies (especially NPOV) to resolve "verifiable, but not truth" situationsBlueboar (talk) 17:25, 16 July 2011 (UTC)

"Not truth" is ambiguously both a literalism and a figure of speech[edit]

While this conversation has reached a lull, this seems to be a good time to step back and discuss why we haven't been able to resolve the issues.  One point is that we did not reach a consensus in the previous discussion about "not truth" being a figure of speech.  Perhaps the problem is that it is more accurate to identify the two words as ambiguous in having both a literal meaning and having a figure of speech meaning.  Unscintillating (talk) 16:57, 16 July 2011 (UTC)

I am not sure I understand your distinction. But do we really have to re-open the discussion yet again? The phrase says exactly what it means... It does not matter if you are 100% positive that something is true... if it is not verifiable you can't include it. It really is that simple. Blueboar (talk) 17:33, 16 July 2011 (UTC)
Argh! I was trying to drop this, but I literally can't let that pass. If it said that, Blueboar—if the wording was exactly what you just wrote—then I wouldn't have a problem with it at all! But that's not what it says.—S Marshall T/C 21:22, 16 July 2011 (UTC)
Huh? That's exactly what it says. Blueboar (talk) 21:29, 16 July 2011 (UTC)
What about adding that sentence as a follow on to the sentence that is there? So, we'd have 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. The fact that an editor or editors are 100% positive that something is true is irrelevent; if it is not verifiable you can't include it. for the first paragraph (slightly edited to make it more appropriate for the document). I think that it's simply restating what's already in the second sentence, but I wanted to offer something like this as a sort of compromise.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 23:08, 16 July 2011 (UTC)
Maybe we should change it to "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is Verifiability, not awesomeness".. but then people might complain that Wikipedia is anti-awesome? Seriously, this is basic English grammar; it means exactly what Blueboar said it means. We should really drop this before we all lose our minds. Mlm42 (talk) 21:34, 16 July 2011 (UTC)
Blueboar, what it says is that it doesn't matter what's true, it only matters what's verifiable. Which is a very different thing from what you just wrote. Did you seriously not understand where North8000 and Unscintillating and Hans Adler and me and, well, everyone else who doesn't like the current version were coming from?—S Marshall T/C 21:38, 16 July 2011 (UTC)

1. So one source of difficulty is that editors don't agree what the two words mean.  Unscintillating (talk) 21:39, 16 July 2011 (UTC)

Wishing the best for everyone's minds, #A suggestion, above. --Tryptofish (talk) 21:40, 16 July 2011 (UTC)

Structurally, the operative part of the sentence is "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability", it is not affected by any listing of what it is not. You could list a hundred things that it is not, and it would not affect the operative clause. The effects of "not truth" do not come from the structural statement of the sentence, the come from the impressions that it leaves, and the mis-quotings that it encourages. I think that the intent and benefit of the "not truth" is to address one of the most common challenges of the policy, where someone essentially says "but it's true, so verifiability should not be required". I personally think that this benefit is small/irrelevant, because whoever says that will certainly and always lose, as wp:ver is clear, explicit, strongly worded, and a policy. Speaking only for myself, I think that the main damage from "not truth" is that it contributes to various widely accepted damaging mantras and misconceptions which pretend to be derived from policy but aren't. Some of these fall along the lines of "editors job isn't to apply intelligence, seek accuracy, select accurate sources, or do what editors do to create all of the successful WP articles, it it just to watch good articles spontaneously arise from tallying and repeating sources." And if there is a POV battle, that accuracy is not even allowed to enter into the conversation. North8000 (talk) 22:33, 16 July 2011 (UTC)

Argh... I think I am about to loose my mind. Face-smile.svg Stop over-thinking this. Most people clearly interpret the first sentence in a manner very similar to what Blueboar said above. If you parse individual words with various meanings, you can twist around the intent of nearly any sentence uttered in English discourse, which is what I see you doing here North. One major reason such arguments are unconvincing is that they're not grounded in any actual commentary. Can you provide some diffs where you think that someone is espousing the interpretation that you're offering?
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 23:03, 16 July 2011 (UTC)
Do you have any diffs to show that "most people clearly interpret the first sentence in a manner very similar to what Blueboar said above"?  Unscintillating (talk) 23:27, 16 July 2011 (UTC)
If most people interpreted it that way, then we wouldn't have had such a conflict on this page in the first place and we wouldn't have so many news articles and organizations accusing Wikipedia of advocating a policy of promoting false information. I would definitely argue that most people interpret not truth as meaning that Wikipedia has no problem with pushing false information, just so long as it is verifiable and that all information on Wikipedia must be thought of as false, because Wikipedia has no reason to try to make sure it is true. That's the interpretation I think the world at large takes from "not truth". SilverserenC 01:21, 17 July 2011 (UTC)
I disagree: Conflict involving a couple of pedantic folks on a policy page does not prove anything about the normal person. See, e.g., the ArbCom case about MOSDATE: 99.99% of editors—a fraction that qualifies as "most" by any standard—were uninvolved and unaffected.
I haven't seen a single reputable media source that actually asserts Wikipedia advocates promoting falsehoods.
I think if most people misunderstood this page, there'd be a different person howling about it at RSN every day, and lengthy discussions about its true meaning every month. This isn't happening. Not one of the people alleging a misunderstanding has ever put forward even a single diff showing that anyone except themselves has actually misunderstood it. And, yes, we've asked for those diffs, for months now. At this point, absence of evidence of a real-article, real-editor problem looks to me a whole lot like evidence of absence of any real disputes involving this hypothetical misunderstanding. WhatamIdoing (talk) 02:02, 17 July 2011 (UTC)

2. Another source of difficulty is comments not grounded by diffs.  Unscintillating (talk) 23:27, 16 July 2011 (UTC)

I figured someone would try to be smart and ask that. It's rather difficult to prove a negative. I'm not sure how I can show that people have not used the interpretation that north (and yourself?) are putting forward... other than not pointing to anything. As for showing that the policy as written is used in the manner that myself and Blueboar, among others, are saying, I could pick any of thousands of talk page conversations where WP:V is mentioned. Is that really necessary? the policy is as it has been for years now, I'm simply asking for some basis in fact that it's not always interpreted as nearly everyone apparently thinks that it's interpreted as (other than an apparently tiny minority).
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 00:54, 17 July 2011 (UTC)

3. Another source of difficulty is no agreement that a problem exists.  Unscintillating (talk) 01:57, 17 July 2011 (UTC)

4. Another source of difficulty is that the Discussion page format makes archives of diffs inconvenient to locate.  Unscintillating (talk) 02:47, 17 July 2011 (UTC)

Regarding examples that support what I said, ( from the many that I have drawn the conclusion from) they are pervasive; there is even at least one in this current talk page. If this is just User:North8000/Page2#Useful method to take a whack at any thought then it would be a waste of time, But if some folks are genuinely open to see if they lend support to what I said, possible say something, the I would be happy to work on it. North8000 (talk) 14:32, 17 July 2011 (UTC)

OK I found one right in this talk page. It the full ramifications covered by: "Our job here is not to present 'truth' but to present what reliable sources say about the subject" The full scope of this sentence includes excluding all other considerations (such as accuracy, plausibility) in deciding what does and doesn't go into an article. North8000 (talk) 14:37, 17 July 2011 (UTC)
See though, that's kinda my point. That's not an example, it's your own interpretation of what others are saying, and that interpretation isn't what most others appear to be taking. It certainly doesn't seem to be my own interpretation... although, it's kinda hard to tell because what you're saying is kinda written in double-speak. I know that I'm open to listening to any suggestions, and I have been listening here; it seems as though you're unwilling to consider anything but removal of "not truth", which is never going to be accceptable to this group of participants.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 15:27, 17 July 2011 (UTC)
While I can't say exactly what that one person had in mind, such sayings are pervasively applied to mean exactly that. On "you're unwilling to consider anything but removal of "not truth", you must have missed a whole lot of things that I've written, such as the latest below. North8000 (talk) 15:31, 17 July 2011 (UTC)

5. Another source of difficulty is resistance to consensus building.  Unscintillating (talk) 15:56, 17 July 2011 (UTC)

6. Another source of difficulty is that sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from trolling. —chaos5023 (talk) 16:25, 17 July 2011 (UTC)

"Not truth" discussion[edit]

Right now on CNN. Count Iblis (talk) 01:56, 6 July 2011 (UTC)

Link? Unable to find it on Google news or CNN's own Wikipedia keyword search. Jclemens (talk) 06:51, 6 July 2011 (UTC)

I can't find it either. However, I'm a little late to this party and didn't know about this until I saw a thread on S marshal's talk page about this while responding to something else there. I can see both sides to this. Some of the old timers have probably noticed that almost every POV pusher who has come along has claimed to bear "the truth" and I have no doubt that many of them think we should just AGF and accept their "truth". The first sentence is a polite way of telling them that what they offer, even if it's the "truth" is not enough. It should be possible for any reader to click those little blue numbers and decide for themselves if it's the "truth".

On the other hand "accuracy" is important too. It's quite possible for something to be "verifiable" at one time and later found to be weapons grade bullshit. We shouldn't be telling people that it's not important and that's what the first sentence might imply to some.

I think there should be a way of making both points to newcomers and others. I don't know what that might be but one idea might be to remove "truth" from the first sentence of this policy and expand WP:VNT into a guideline. This way we can both emphasize that accuracy is important but still preserve the old but important "verifiability not truth" meme and have something that isn't "just an essay" to point newcomers and POV pushers to when they claim to bear the "truth". --Ron Ritzman (talk) 03:14, 8 July 2011 (UTC)

That's an interesting idea. I'm one of those who has been fighting against removing 'not truth' from the lead. However, I'm open to doing so if Wikipedia:Verifiability, not truth is made into a guideline, with the provision that it not be in turn attacked by those who have been campaigning for the removal of 'not truth' from the lead here. LK (talk) 05:46, 8 July 2011 (UTC)
The trouble with such compromises is that, as any proper logician or mathematician will tell you, a compromise between a wrong solution and a correct solution is another kind of wrong solution. My position is that we need to remove "not truth" from this policy without elevating VNT to a guideline. It's a sin against the basic purpose of an encyclopaedia to publish known error, so we need to tell the truth. To actually instruct editors that they need not tell the truth is simply the wrong approach.—S Marshall T/C 07:20, 8 July 2011 (UTC)
I think that, whatever we do, we have to make sure that we're covering all the points in a way which is easy to understand for the people who are most likely to misunderstand it. How we actually word these things can have a major impact on how readily they're followed. This means that, ideally, the absolute simplest way of being accurate needs to be worked on. The purpose of a lesson isn't to show how erudite the teacher is - it's to get the lesson across to everyone! Pesky (talkstalk!) 07:36, 8 July 2011 (UTC)
Incidentally, it strikes me that we need to merge WP:VNT and WP:TRUE back where they belong, into WP:V. Or just delete them, if we think WP:V is the consensus version.—S Marshall T/C 11:22, 8 July 2011 (UTC)

We have had multiple discussions, and even formal RFCs on this issue in the last few months. Please, stop beating this particular dead horse. It is getting to the point of being disruptive. Blueboar (talk) 12:54, 8 July 2011 (UTC)

  • Ron Ritzman's remark shows that there's still an appetite for discussing it among previously uninvolved editors, Blueboar. Please stop trying to dictate what other users discuss on this talk page. That kind of controlling behaviour is quite unacceptable.—S Marshall T/C 13:08, 8 July 2011 (UTC)
It's an important, current, pervasive problem. On the last specific proposal for changing the first sentence there was no consensus to change nor consensus to keep so it stayed with the status quo. Most likely if someone came up with a change which at least mitigated the problem without changing the first sentence it would pass. How 'bout adding a "radical" :-) statement like this just after the infamous sentence: "Verifiability helps achieve accuracy" North8000 (talk) 13:23, 8 July 2011 (UTC)

I am not trying to dictate anything... I am merely pointing out that the idea of dropping the "not truth" wording has already been discussed (repeatedly)... and that the idea has been rejected (repeatedly). To continue to push for it smacks of WP:IDIDN'THEARTHAT. If we are going to resolve this issue, we have to find another way to do it... something that can gain a clear consensus. Blueboar (talk) 13:28, 8 July 2011 (UTC)

Thanks for that clarification. On a separate note on the later part of your first sentence, If you are calling the lack of a consensus "rejected", the the idea of keeping the first sentence as-is has also been "rejected". North8000 (talk) 13:52, 8 July 2011 (UTC)
But I think that the reality is that I don't think that we're going to change the first sentence so we should fix the problem by other means. North8000 (talk) 14:03, 8 July 2011 (UTC)
  • I don't think it's been "rejected" at all, Blueboar. I think, rather, that there is no consensus in favour of it—an important distinction because there is also no real consensus in favour of the current version. The reason the "not truth" phrase remains in the policy is not because there is a consensus to support it, but because on Wikipedia, a lack of consensus results in stagnation. In other words, SlimVirgin's wording from 2005 remains because of her first-mover advantage rather than because it really enjoys widespread support. It's unfortunate that sheer RFC-fatigue will maintain this unsatisfactory position for the time being, but there's no reason why this should prevent discussion on the talk page.—S Marshall T/C 14:53, 8 July 2011 (UTC)

What about linking Wikipedia:Verifiability, not truth in the three words? That way, the meaning can be fully explained elsewhere. Cambalachero (talk) 15:49, 8 July 2011 (UTC)

  • I get the feeling that discussion in this talk has a tendency to go round and round. I really believe that not only will "not truth" be retained, but it should be retained. But the accuracy distinction is an excellent one. Lest it be lost, please see #A possible middle ground?, above. I think that might be the way to an acceptable fix. --Tryptofish (talk) 16:39, 8 July 2011 (UTC)

The discussion I was referring to was the one about the verdict in the Casey Anthony case. There was quite an interesting discussion on CNN about this with lawyers, a former judge and a few prosecutors. It had quite strong parallels with the "not truth" discussions we've had here. Someone in fact mentioned that in general judical cases are not about the truth, but some others disagreed about that. Count Iblis (talk) 16:55, 8 July 2011 (UTC)

I'm new to this discussion; maybe we need more 'new' voices in, to see if a consensus for anything can be achieved with some more and / or newer voices? I can see the frustration in here, on both sides. We all need to remember that each of us is actually trying to make things better; each of us is acting in good faith for something that we genuinely believe in. It's very hard when people get frustrated, impassioned, all-around fed-up, and all the rest! But - have faith, we're actually all attempting to work towards improvement of some kind.
I personally think that there's room for merges, room for change, and all the rest. I don't think that we necessarily need multiple pages to cover the subject - the fewer places we're directing people to, the better, on the whole. But we do need to keep discussions going - sometimes something new just turns up in a discussion and everyone says "Why didn't we think of this before?"; sometimes consensus changes simply because something's been presented in a slightly different, more clear, way; sometimes it's just new voices - but, whatever it is, if end up with improvement, it's a good thing. After all, we're (presumably) all working consistently towards trying to make things better? So - take a few deep breaths, have a beer / cup of tea / whatever, chill out a little, and recall, whenever we get frustrated, that we're actually all on the same team! [Pesky offers soothing hugs to whoever feels in need of same :o) ] Pesky (talkstalk!) 05:59, 9 July 2011 (UTC)

The problem is that a lot of editors interpret verifiability, not truth as something like verifiability, regardless of accuracy or verifiability, not factuality. In my opinion, what really matters isn't so much that the misleading formulation is changed, but rather that we document unambiguously that this is not the intended meaning. So far, whenever I tried to explain this to one of those verifiability warriors, I was told that I am just plain wrong and don't understand Wikipedia. E.g., if the Register claims that A happened in Wikipedia, and the Wikipedia page history, in accordance with what respected members of our community remember, proves that the opposite is true, then we are still under an obligation to state as a fact that A happened even though we know it's false and libels someone. I am not making this up, this was a real dispute in which even an admin argued for libelling a former arbitrator because in his opinion verifiability in a purely technical sense trumps what we know reliably though not from a reliable source. It's a blessing that the Register's lie wasn't picked up by other reliable sources while we were repeating it without qualification, under the assumption that Wikipedia must be the most reliable and most direct source for such claims about Wikipedia, and that Sam Blacketer was not interested in suing the Wikimedia Foundation.

Regardless of any definite outcome, these discussions serve an important purpose. If they had happened a few years earlier, I would have had something to point to in previous instances in order to educate the fundamentalists that their interpretation is a radical minority interpretation. Better still, as more and more editors participate in this discussion and develop their own approaches to what verifiability, not truth means, general awareness of the problem increases and it becomes more and more likely that editors inclined towards fundamentalism are corrected at an early stage, and that in case of an escalation the number of editors who defend common sense and the integrity of the encyclopedia reaches critical mass more quickly than happened in the past.

That's not to say that an explanation in the policy itself wouldn't be a good thing, too. Hans Adler 07:12, 9 July 2011 (UTC)

I can fully support continued attempts to better explain what we mean by "verifiability, not truth". I strongly oppose the idea of removing "verifiability, not truth". Blueboar (talk) 13:46, 9 July 2011 (UTC)
I agree that it's an important concept and what I first suggested was only one possible approach to differentiating between "truth (accuracy)" and "truth (belief)". Another idea would be to change it to "verifiability not woo woo" but I don't think that will fly :) --Ron Ritzman (talk) 00:29, 10 July 2011 (UTC)
Thus, I think it would be a good approach to keep the existing sentence about "not truth", but to follow it with a new sentence to better explain what it actually means. --Tryptofish (talk) 17:06, 9 July 2011 (UTC)
Sounds like an OK compromise. Let's work on it. North8000 (talk) 17:19, 9 July 2011 (UTC)
  • Well, I don't agree. What'll happen is that editors will quote "Verifiability, not truth" at each other and disregard the subsequent clarifying sentence. The best approach is to remove the words "not truth" from the policy.—S Marshall T/C 14:37, 11 July 2011 (UTC)
  • I agree with you that the "not truth" in that first sentence should go. Probably the most damaging two words in all of Wikipedia. But it doesn't look like it's going to happen in the near future. So an explanatory sentence after that to reduce the harm that "not truth" does is a "half way" idea. I would argue that a small step forward is better than none at all. But you could also argue that the small step forward could reduce the impetus for the bigger step forward of removing "not truth". Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 14:51, 11 July 2011 (UTC)
  • I'm not sure that it won't happen in the near future. I think before making changes, it would be best to watch what happens with the alarmingly mistitled "cults" case that Arbcom are about to accept, and be informed by the inevitable RFCs on that. The case is basically about misleading content on Wikipedia, with specific reference to our coverage of certain right-wing US politicians (be it allegedly highly laudatory, as with Kenneth Dickson, or allegedly highly pejorative, as with Rick Santorum). The point I'm coming to is that the infamous "not truth" clause is quite arguably one of the most enabling things for editors who wish to write misleading content. I hope that in the light of that case, there will be some well-considered edits made to our policies.—S Marshall T/C 15:02, 11 July 2011 (UTC)
  • I'm afraid that such ArbCom cases on disputes on politics pages will make it even harder to get rid of "not truth". We have to consider how we got stuck with this "not truth" clause in the first place. Obviously, on those topics were "truth" is not easy to determine objectively and opinion as published in sources is the only thing that's verifiable, you tend to have the most disputes. These disputes influence the policies we have on Wikipedia. Then on other topics were truth is a more important factor to consider than simple direct verifiability (e.g. in case of scientific topics), you have far less disputes so the editors on these pages have had far little say on the shaping of the policies (the main influence here has been on dealing with fringe science, pseudoscience, POV pushing on politically charged issues like climate change denial, etc.)
As a result, the policies have evolved such that the normal editing practices on certain types of scientific articles are now in conflict with a strict interpretation of some policies. The best way to fix things, i.m.o. is to draft completely new texts for policies instead of trying to incrementally change things. The problem with the latter apprach is that the text of the policy pages have evolved to become optimally adapted to dealing with problems on politics pages, so any small change will make things worse from the perspective of the regulars here. Count Iblis (talk) 15:29, 11 July 2011 (UTC)
Another angle on this is that a source can be judged unreliable for particular items of information based on whether editors think it is true. Such an editorial judgement of unreliability negates verifiability and due weight and justifies suppression of the source and the info it contains. See currently ongoing discussion about this here. Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 20:47, 11 July 2011 (UTC)
Since the world is full of wp:"reliable" sources that are sometimes real-world-unreliable and wrong on the topic at hand, it is a normal practice (on non-contentious articles) for editors to try to figure out which ones are right and use them. This is only heresy per the "not accuracy("truth")" train wreck religion; exercising editorial judgment to not use wrong sources is how good articles are written and does not violate actual policy. (unless there is a pov question in which case wp:npov says that the wrong ones also stay in) But on contentious articles this whole process breaks down, and the poor wording of the first sentence is one of the contributors to this problem. North8000 (talk) 21:08, 11 July 2011 (UTC)
As opposed to the train wrecks we will get by removing "not truth"--from people who will argue endless that we cannot use a reliable source because it is not true, and that we can use an unreliable source because it is true. Remember, whatever we do here has to work everywhere on WP. --Nuujinn (talk) 21:25, 11 July 2011 (UTC)
The words "train wreck" are hyperbole and the words "we can use an unreliable source because it is true" are a straw man.  As a logical fallacy, the defeat of the straw man does not actually lead to the conclusion stated, which basicly is saying that POV truth-pushers can only be controlled at Wikipedia with the force of a particular two-word figure of speech.  Unscintillating (talk) 01:50, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
  • Whereas if we say "verifiability, not truth" then we get the situation we have at the moment, where policy says that whatever can be sourced can be said. The trouble is that the sources we call "reliable" get it wrong all the time, and some of them don't get it wrong by accident. I mean, the BBC are one of the world's more reliable sources, but even they faked footage of child labour in a hatchet-job "exposé" of fashion retailer Primark. And I dread to think how much of Wikipedia is sourced to Fox News.—S Marshall T/C 21:50, 11 July 2011 (UTC)
Nuujinn, unless you are saying that something being sourced is a sufficient condition to force inclusion, then "we cannot use a reliable source because it is not true" is something that they can do right now, and rightly so. And, for challenged material, getting rid of the problematic words would not change that wp:ver says that wp:rs'ing is required to keep in challenged material. North8000 (talk) 23:59, 11 July 2011 (UTC)
No, I am saying that I think deleting use of "not truth" will create more problems than it will solve. I will also say that this horse has died, sunk into the earth, become fossilized, put on display in a natural science museum where it has been around long enough to have become dusty. By continuing this line of discussion for months when it is absolutely clear that there is no consensus for the change, some editors have, in my opinion, become disruptive to the discussions here. --Nuujinn (talk) 00:13, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
Do you have an example of where the two words avoided a problem?  Sorry, but we do not have a consensus to not change this wording—hyperbole is not a substitute for the force of reason.  Unscintillating (talk) 02:01, 12 July 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Just to keep terminology straight, since actually reliable sources often don't qualify as wp:reliable sources, and wp:reliable sources are often unreliable or wrong, when referring to a source defined as meeting wp:rs criteria, we should clarify that it is a "wp:reliable source", a distinction from "reliable source". North8000 (talk) 23:58, 11 July 2011 (UTC)

Thank you for that perspective.  Unscintillating (talk) 02:01, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
Well, it has been a long time since I've contributed to this page or the WP:RS/N so maybe Blueboar can correct me if I'm wrong–a "wp:reliable source" is not something that is inherent to a particular source, the NY Times is not inherently considered a wp:RS for anything stated in it no matter what, policy/guidelines are clear that a RS is only reliable for facts that fall under what is considered to be the source's primary area of expertise. You can't take Scientific American or Nature magazines if they give the wrong birthday for George Washington and claim now on the article that there is dispute on his birthday (which there kinda is because of the change in Gregorian/Julian calenders in Britian after he was born). Fox news is OFTEN taken to the RS/N for whether it is a RS in a certain case, and often it isnt an RS. The basic fundamental flaw with "verifiable, not truth" is that to be an RS you first have to be CORRECT. If you have one source that is an RS normally, and it has been shown by another RS to be false, then it is FALSE, you dont get to write in the article that there is a dispute or "one source says one thing another says another", it is simply false. Of course sometimes things arent so cut-and-dry and despite NOR sometimes we have to make judgement calls on these things. You may not want to remove "verifiable, not truth" but in the end TRUTH matters and since policy itself is clear that policy is not prescriptive but instead is descriptive ie- "policy describes best it can our current method of dealing with certain situations that have occurred already, use this as a guide to resolving future disputes, use with caution as specifics may vary and consensus may be different". So the question I pose is–is how is "verifiable, not truth" used by the Community in every day editing, once we resolve how the Community actually acts we can then describe it better in a policy or guideline. You (as in any editor) may not like how it is used, but policy is not about forcing Wikipedia into what you would prefer, it is about describing what is already done by the Community.Camelbinky (talk) 06:10, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
This is a good point - sometimes even the most "reliable" of sources can contain something as simple as a typo (on dates of birth, for instance) which escapes the sub-editor before it goes into print. Reliable sources can (and do) make honest mistakes - so we do need, from time to time, to make that judgment call on whether or not to include that stuff. For the most part, it's obvious, but sometimes it's less obvious. I think we may have kinda wandered off the main route here, though - I'm still mulling over how to put the idea simply that, no matter how true something is, it does have to have been scholarly-accepted-as-true (or at least as a possible alternative truth) before we can include it in wp. It's closely linked to the WP:OR thing, too. True and verifiable obviously has to take priority over published but inaccurate and also over "newly true" but not yet published in an accurate and reliable source. The second two kinds of info aren't acceptable for inclusion - only the first is. How about verifiably true? Does that get any closer? Pesky (talkstalk!) 08:11, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
  • This is a policy, so say simple things in accessible constructions. Begin with the basic idea, not the difficult cases. My ideal version of this policy might begin: "Before any kind of material may be included in Wikipedia, it must be verifiable. The best way to verify things is by an inline citation to a reliable source. In practice, not everything has to be verified, but if anyone challenges something, or if it seems likely to be challenged, please provide an inline citation to a reliable source..."

    After we've outlined the basic principles, we can go on to discuss the hard cases, such as how to deal with material that's verified but not true, or indeed true but not verified. But that first paragraph must be simple and clear.—S Marshall T/C 09:07, 12 July 2011 (UTC)

Sounds good. North8000 (talk) 10:57, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
Let me apologize in advance for being both pedantic and long winded, I recognize these are some of my many faults.
"The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth" is simple, and to my way of thinking, is the basic principle we need to articulate. Unscintillating, I believe that, generally speaking, consensus is required to make a change, but not to leave things as they are, so in regard to "....we do not have a consensus to not change this wording", I don't think we have to have consensus to leave "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth" as it is. In terms of where it matters having "not truth" in the policy, I could say answer that it is an important phrase for any area where people disagree about what the truth is, which (IME) includes pretty much any article on the Balkans, politics, controversies (esp. if the sources are limited to eastern european or western asian news sources), fringe "science", or any of the other really messy areas where The Truth is articulated by believers. And when you dig into the topic, Truth is not a simple matter, see esp. Feynman's quote on that page.
But the real reason I like the phrase so much is it provides clear direction as to the mechanism we use to resolve disagreements about what to include and what to reject. Truth is contextual, not absolute. The sky is blue, but the sky is not blue. We will sometimes disagree about what is true in a given article, and the only way I can see to resolve such disagreements is to turn to reliable sources and use them to verify what is true in the context of that article, which is enough work as it is. "verifiability, not truth" gives us a simple, quick way to explain that one of the most important things we do here is not determine what is true, but what we can verify. It is an excellent phrase to slow down the tigers amoung us, the little black dress that is appropriate in all venues in WP when we are trying to determine what to add and what to remove. And since we have to use reliable sources to verify what we would call the truth in every case where there is a disagreement, we are really, in practice, talking about verifiability rather than truth even when we're trying to talk about what is true.
Now, I certainly endorse the notion that we can improve the wording and how we explain these concepts. I do sympathize with those who do not like the phrase, as there are many policies and guidelines containing phrases I'm not comfortable with. I'm also sure that many editors will disagree with what I've said here, and that's fine, as well-meaning productive editors often disagree. But if one examines the discussions above and in the archives, it seems pretty clear there's simply not consensus to remove the phrase. And many of us are quite honestly tired of talking about this--this issue has completely dominated this page for months now and is, I believe, interfering with our ability to get things done here. My suggestion is to let it go, and let's work on explaining it better. --Nuujinn (talk) 11:25, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
I'm sorry that you're weary of this discussion, Nuujinn, but I'd remark that nobody's changing the policy and nobody's forcing you to participate in the conversation. There is no disruption taking place here, or at least, not on the pro-change group's side. The reason the issue has completely dominated this page for months is because it's important, and because at a fundamental level there is genuinely no consensus about it.—S Marshall T/C 11:42, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
"...a fundamental level there is genuinely no consensus about it, yes, exactly, which is why we should drop it and move on. There is no sign of consensus on the horizon, the horse is dead. But I've said enough. --Nuujinn (talk) 13:50, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
S Marshall, IMHO you are absolutely correct in your comments about those two words, but as a compromise, what if, instead, we worked on an immediately-following sentence that mitigates the problems caused by those two words? North8000 (talk) 14:10, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
  • My position would remain that we need to remove "not truth" (and also change "threshold") from that first sentence, but I wouldn't try to stop you.—S Marshall T/C 16:11, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
Requiring information to be "verifiably true" will be understood as meaning that editors get to remove anything that they believe to be untrue. We've already got this problem at hundreds of articles on controversial subjects. To give one minor example, I do not want to people with Multiple chemical sensitivity to feel any more empowered than they already do to delete the well-sourced material about the disputes over the condition. We already have enough problems with people re-writing the article to make it sound like the problem is definitely caused by nasty synthetic chemicals (or strictly a hoax, depending on the POV). Telling them that Wikipedia may not include information unless it's agreed to be True™ would result in a blank page at that article (and many others).
Now imagine what would happen at Climate change or Homeopathy. Well-sourced, well-written articles often include information that someone believes to be verifiable, but NOT true. WhatamIdoing (talk) 17:08, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
I don't think that the addition would need to be structural/operative, just as the problematic "not truth" wording is not structural/operative. It could be something as simple as adding "This does not intend the discourage seeking accuracy; verifiability helps achieve accuracy" North8000 (talk) 18:27, 12 July 2011 (UTC)

Is this a Brainwave? "Not only true, but verifiably true"[edit]

(Apart from being an almost arbitrary break to help with readability / editability) ... Neither verifiability nor truth, on its own, is what we want. Something true but not verifiable, or 'verifiable' (as in, someone can find an apparently reliable source for it) but not true, is not what we want.

What we're looking for is "Not only true, but verifiably true". I think (but then I'm biased, as I thought of it) that that covers everything we need for a short catchphrase. I also know that loads of people shy away from any kind of wording-change in horror / terror / whatever, just because it's that dreaded thing, change. We do need a nice short catchphrase, and we do need it to cover as far as possible the concept of true and verifiably so, and we do need something that won;t just let people think they can wantonly delete sourced material, and so on. I think getting the whole thing in one catchphrase is totally impossible (hence why we have a whole page, etc.) Bu t I think my idea has merit, as an evolved catchphrase over 'Verifiability, not truth.' :o) What do you guys think? I;m trying to be constructive and look for a solution here. Pesky (talkstalk!) 09:56, 13 July 2011 (UTC)

Adding a bit - 'truth' changes; we all know it changes, as more research is done (in scientific fields) for instance, our concept of 'what is true' evolves. I think we need to get across this idea to people, so we're not seen as belittling anyone who knows 'the next truth' (one which has been researched but not yet published). Experiments can have unusual outcomes, so if an experiment with the 'wrong' outcome is published, it doesn't necessarily mean that its a 'new truth'. We could possibly, further down the page, cover something like that; there needs to be more than one experiment, by more than one set of people, ideally, for something to be accepted as a new truth. I can think of two examples straight away: schooldays, chemistry lab, making hydrogen. What's supposed to happen is that hydrogen collects in the test tube. What actually happens was that nothing happens, the chemistry teacher pokes the setup, the bung flies out and hits the chemistry teacher hard on the nose. Second: in a home trial on a large clan of cats, eight out of ten cats demonstrably actually preferred toffee-flavoured Angel Delight. Both truths - but not enoughly-true to take precedent over the more commonly accepted and expected truth! Pesky (talkstalk!) 10:11, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
(edit conflict)No, we don't care if anyhing is true or not. We present what [WP:RS|reliable sources]] propose as what they believe is the truth, and if they don't agree, we present different opinions. We don't do any research to find the truth (which would be WP:OR, we don't exclude sources which we believe are not the truth, even if they are "reliable". Claiming that articles should present what is true will only lead to people excluding what they believe is not true, no matter how many reliable sources there are. (Note: obvious errors, typo's, outdated info from reliable sources should of course be removed: that's not what this discussion is about). If some reliable sources claim that diisease X is caused by pollution, and other RS claim that it is caused by genetics, then both views should be included in the article: an editor who removes one of the two opinions because the other is "the truth" should be reverted: as far as we know, neither may be the truth, one of them at least is probably false, but both are verifiable, and that's all that counts. Fram (talk) 10:16, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
Yes, that's true. Of course disease X may be caused by something totally different, and just need to be triggered, but we may not have found that out yet! Or it may be caused by both things .... But we do need some kind of verifiability for both 'versions of the truth'. And we need to teach people that we teach the controversy, if there is one ... Pesky (talkstalk!) 10:42, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
Respectfully, someone saying on this very page "we don't care if anything is true or not" is proof of the damage that those two words have done. North8000 (talk) 10:55, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
No, it is not because of those two words that I don't care if anything is true or not, it is because I don't care about that, that I support the inclusion of those two words. Finding truth in primary sources is the job of secondary sources: we are a tertiary source, we compile what the secondary sources have found. Fram (talk) 11:04, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
Well said. I think what we're aiming for is to accurately reflect what reliable sources say is "true", in the context of the subject of the article and the sources. Presenting the Truth isn't our responsibility, and trying to do that just causes headaches. --Nuujinn (talk) 11:13, 13 July 2011 (UTC)

Terms and situations First, using the word "truth" instead of "accuracy" is a straw man, because one common meaning of the word "truth" is dogmas and opinions.

Next we must realize that there are three cases regarding "which is correct":

  1. The metrics of a correct answer are agreed upon, but the answer is not agreed upon or known: E.G. Where did Emelia Erhart's final flight end? Another way to say this is that if full information were available, all reasonable parties would certainly agree. The leading edge of real science falls into this category.
  2. The metrics of a correct answer are agreed on, (all would agree what "land a man on the moon" and "Win the Superbowl" mean) and the answer is overwhelmingly considered to be known. E.G. Did the US land a man on the moon? "Who won the 2011 Super Bowl?" Any alternative viewpoint in these situations is fringe.
  3. The metrics of a correct answer are not agreed upon (how do you define "good" and "bad") nor is the answer. Example: Is Obama a good or bad president? In reality, "accuracy" is irrelevant/moot here, because both the metrics and the result are matters of opinion. North8000 (talk) 11:16, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
(ec)Also, I like North8000's suggestion regarding adding something like "This does not intend the discourage seeking accuracy; verifiability helps achieve accuracy", the wording is a bit awkward, but I think that's a good direction to go in. --Nuujinn (talk) 11:22, 13 July 2011 (UTC)

There are more cases, such as what context the answer has meaning or value. Examples included assumptions of a frictionless surface for experiments or situations in which one Truth (the earth is not a true sphere) conflict with another (the earth for most practical purposes is a sphere) and another (the earth is a chunk of stuff who's description is only roughly approximated by geometry). This is the essence of Pragmatism. Truth is a sticky topic. --Nuujinn (talk) 11:31, 13 July 2011 (UTC)

Agree on all counts. That's why my idea doesn't say "only put in accurate stuff", instead it just essentially says "we're not against seeking accuracy" North8000 (talk) 11:34, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
It seems that we're actually all agreeing on this, which is a good step forwards! "This does not intend to discourage seeking accuracy; verifiability helps achieve accuracy" is an excellent addition. The other stuff (the "nearly-true" or true for all useful purposes at this level comes straight from Wittgenstein's Ladder). Pesky (talkstalk!) 11:56, 13 July 2011 (UTC)

fact vs opinion[edit]

To me, the debate over the "Verifiability, not Truth" clause centers on a simple question: When should we present something said by a source as being accepted fact (ie true), and when should we present it as opinion.
Wikipedia can not rely on the personal views of its editors (no matter how strongly held or how well reasoned) to answer this question. An editor may be biased (POV), or basing his/her reasoning on Original Research (OR). No, the views of Wikipedia editors as to whether the something is fact or not must be set aside. Instead, we rely on examining the broad corpus of reliable sources that discuss the topic (ie we see what lots of reliable sources say).
If the broad corpus of reliable sources essentially agree that something is fact, then Wikipedia should present that something as being fact... and contrary views should be presented as being minority opinions. If the broad corpus of reliable source do not agree on whether something is fact, then we must present both the majority and minority views as being "opinions". Blueboar (talk) 12:50, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
This is where the 'due weight' aspect comes in, really. If 70% of the sources take one view, then the article should be 70% weighted towards that point of view. The real problem (as always) occurs when we have passionate people on both sides of what is supposed to be an argument in the "debating" meaning of the word, but so frequently degenerates into an argument in the "flaming row" meaning of the word! Whenever people have really strong feelings that the other side of the argument cannot by any reasonable, conceivable means be "true", then we get the flaming row happening. And Wikipedia editors are kinda passionate people - we're driven by our feelings. We're certainly not driven by any cash incentive! So we're never going to be able to get rid of passion (nor would we want to). It's incredibly hard to get across the idea of either NPOV or due weight to people who cannot believe that anything said by the other side can be true or even reasonable. So ... how do we really get across the idea that editors should put their own feelings, passions and beliefs aside, and let the other side have it's own due weight in an article - without wanting to haul off and hit each other repeatedly over the head with spanners? Pesky (talkstalk!) 13:01, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
  • Blueboar, I think you're heading in the right direction with this. Policy should document what we actually do in controversial cases. Take examples like young earth creationism or global warming. What we do is to explain that there are various viewpoints, but then we clearly and unambiguously side with the scientific consensus—because in practice, what's actually true trumps the absurd fictions that some crackpot has persuaded a technically reliable source to publish. And I emphatically endorse our current approach. The only thing that's a problem is that our policy says it's not the approach we're supposed to have.—S Marshall T/C 13:15, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
I agree with almost everything you say S Marshall... but I disagree with your last sentence... I think the current policy (especially when read in conjunction with our other polices) states very well what we "actually do". We really don't care whether you (an editor) are convinced that something is true or not true. What we do care about is what the sources (all the sources, not just the ones that agree with your personal view) say, and we care about presenting what those sources say with neutrality and due weight. That's the key to understanding "Verifiability, not Truth". Blueboar (talk) 13:23, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
Well, respectfully, that's the exact opposite of what "verifiability not truth" says. In fact, young earth creationism and global warming represent the triumph of the scientific consensus over other published sources. Typically, we excuse this by saying that the peer-reviewed academic ones are the "more reliable" sources. But what that actually means, in the real world, is that academic sources are more reliable because they're more likely to be... the truth. Do you see how that directly contradicts "verifiability, not truth"? In fact, it's closer to, "truth over verifiability."—S Marshall T/C 13:29, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
We side with the scientific consensus because these are the more reliable sources. The chances that they present the truth or are closer to the truth than the fringe scores are of course considerable, but in the end, we prefer not to discuss the contents of such articles on the basis of truth, but on the basis of verifiability and reliability of sources. This may seem like semantics, but keeps things much more neutral and less heated. Discussing whether X is true or not true are pointless; discussing which sources have the best reputation generally, the most peer review, the most citations, the highest professional standards, ... may still get heated, but is in the end fundamentally different. Fram (talk) 13:38, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
It seems to me that what you saying, Fram, is that the good reputations, the most citations, the high professional standards, and the scientific consensus are routes to ... the truth. And we prefer them because they're more likely to be true. Isn't that right?—S Marshall T/C 13:41, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
No... we prefer them (and state what they say as fact) because they represent an extreme majority viewpoint. You may think what they say is "true"... but we don't care what you think. Blueboar (talk) 13:47, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
(edit conflict, respond to S Marshall's statement) In non-contentious articles, it works. Often editors decide which source is in error, which one is is correct, put in the material from the correct source and use it for the cite. Or decide on the correct statement, and then pick a source that supports it. This is not the heresy that some would claim, this is, in fact, in a major way, how successful articles are written. [IP redacted] User:Fred Bauder Talk 17:54, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
No, Blueboar, Wikipedia doesn't follow the majority viewpoint. See, for example, list of common misconceptions which by its very existence is a counterexample to that principle.—S Marshall T/C 13:55, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
We do so follow the majority viewpoint. It's just that the only viewpoints that "count" in our calculation of the majority are the viewpoints expressed in reliable sources, not the viewpoints held by undereducated people.
Also, that something is a "common" misconception is not the same as saying that 50.1% of humans believe the error. A majority of people don't believe most of those misconceptions. WhatamIdoing (talk) 15:24, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
Yes, WhatamIdoing, what I've been saying all the way through this is that we do pick and choose which sources to prefer. We decide which are reliable. This is not a democratic process, not a source-counting exercise, but a matter of editorial judgment in which we decide what we believe and what we don't believe. Which is, at its heart, the quest for accuracy, reliability, and other synonyms for "truth". And that's why it's perverse to pretend that verifiability isn't about truth. It is.—S Marshall T/C 15:31, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
(ec)What Blueboar said. We don't decide what is truth or what not, we set up rules for verifiability and reliability, and we trust the sources that meet our standards to get it right most often. But if they turn out to be wrong and the fringe, ormore likely new research is right instead, so be it. We will then adjust our articles to represent the new scientific or mainstream consensus: but we will not be shamed or humbled, we will not have failed, since it is not our function to present truth, nor to go searching for it: we are, again, not a primary or a secondary source, but a tertiary one. We need to compile, present, summarize, reflect the sources in an accurate, truthful, neutral manner, but we don't pick and choose to present one truth or the truth. Fram (talk) 13:59, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
  • I'm deeply perplexed by this answer, Fram, because I've literally just linked to two high-profile examples of articles where we clearly present two different views from two different sets of sources, and then clearly say that the scientific consensus version is correct. What's this, if it isn't picking and choosing to present one truth or the truth? Shall I link to other example articles where we do exactly this? I certainly can...—S Marshall T/C 14:17, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
That's a different issue. Fram's reply is excellent, I wish I'd said that! Dougweller (talk) 14:33, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
(ec) Re: List of common misconceptions... Common belief is not the same as majority view in reliable sources... also, I will note that the editors of this list are fairly strict about requiring citation to reliable sources that actually say the items listed are misconceptions (and common). You can't just add something because you think it is a misconception (ie the article does not allow assertions of "truth" for inclusion). Blueboar (talk) 16:37, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
I don't quite agree with Fram's comment as (an absolute) general guideline and a part of the problem here is, that a general rule doesn't really cover all the different scenarios in WP that well. Truth and verifiability have slightly different meaning in different areas/fields and there is also a difference whether we are talking about sourcing marginal factoids or theories/concepts/ideas. In particular with regard for the former we do more than just trusting reputable sources to get it right, but (ideally) we actually verify them independently and if necessary correct them. If for instance a reputable source makes an obvious straight forward calculation error (at least obvious to domain experts and for non scientific fields you could think of acitation or copy errors as a similar scenario), then we correct it or at least note the error, but we're definitely not going to copy the reputable source blindly.--Kmhkmh (talk) 16:30, 13 July 2011 (UTC)

Conflicting 'truths'[edit]

I work mainly within the field of archaeology and history. In those fields 'truth' can be extremely elusive, perhaps impossible to determine depending on how you define 'truth'. And there are other fields in which there are conflcting 'truths'. Our job here is not to present 'truth' but to present what reliable sources say about the subject, because that's all we can do when reliable academic source are in conflict (note I'm sticking with academic sources here to make my point). Dougweller (talk) 14:37, 13 July 2011 (UTC)

For those areas, where it is elusive, I think that that simply means that it is not known, not that it does not exist. North8000 (talk) 15:10, 13 July 2011 (UTC)

OK here's an example Three ship experts are writing a WP article about the USS Flutaflammer. The need to put in the length. They (without making a life out of it) can find only two sources that say the length. Both generally reliable, except one made a mistake. One said 735 feet long, which all of the editors agree is plausible. The other said 2,735 feet which all of the editors agree is clearly implausible. The way it really happens is that they decide to say it's 735 feet, and cite the source that said that. Is somebody here saying that they should not have done that? North8000 (talk) 15:22, 13 July 2011 (UTC)

I agree. Some time ago I argued with an editor about an even more problematic issue; the only source making a statment was wrong. It was about a series expension of a function, and the issue was a typo in the source. That was resolved on the basis of "truth" (and perhaps we also violated the NOR/Synth rule). If it's easy to show that a source is wrong, why have wrong information on Wikipedia? If there is a genuine dispute about this issue that is not based on Wiki-fundamentalism about applying the rules here, than that's a different matter. Count Iblis (talk) 15:45, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
I agree as well (see also my posting one further up).--Kmhkmh (talk) 16:44, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
I wouldn't object to the resolution in that example... however, what the editors in question are doing is applying a combination of WP:RS, and WP:CONSENSUS. The editors agree that on this specific fact, one source seems more reliable than the other. We allow for this (if need be, invoking WP:IAR to justify it). But... consensus can change... if a group of editors comes along and challenges the previous consensus, arguing that 2735 feet is actually plausible. At this point the article should be changed... so that it presents the debate... mentioning both lengths and attributing them (as opinion) to their authors. And, as further reliable sources are found (or written), the article would have to be changed yet again, to account for these new sources. Blueboar (talk) 16:03, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
OK, now for the same situation except with a contentious article. A POV warrior (who knows that the 2735 is probably wrong, but where having it in there serves his purpose) enters the scene. He tells the editors that the process of trying to to determine which is right is forbidden in Wikipedia, and so the wrong number also stays in the article. This type of situation is VERY common.North8000 (talk) 17:06, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
  • Actually I think it's simpler than that. Blueboar is right to say we decide what's more reliable. Of course, by "more reliable" what we mean is "more likely to be true".—S Marshall T/C 17:46, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
    That's a good example, but I find it to be overly contrived for essentially the same reasons that Blueboar gave here. Just because we need to remain neutral doesn't mean that we have to be irrational as well. Actually, I'd argue the exact opposite: since we're required to be neutral, we are required to make more rational decisions about the conclusions reached by reading sources. We should all strive to be collegial as well though, meaning that we should at least listen to what the "POV warrior" has to say. In the example given, a reply such as "most of us agree that a ship of this type being 2,735 feet long would be implausible because <such and such>, which makes <the second source> unreliable here in terms of the length of the ship." The "POV warrior" is probably arguing that <the second source> is reliable for something else, and a third (fourth?) editor is reverting them citing the unreliability of that source in terms of the ship's length. In my experience, the vast majority of "POV Warrior" accusations arise from that sort of situation (the others are, of course, consperacy theorists and fringe theorists, but those situations are less... pernicious). Listening to what the "POV warrior" has to say, which should come down to something like "I realize that <the second source> contains a typo for the ships length, but it's correct about <some other subject> and I'm being told that I can't use it for that because of the length issue", should make it clear that the solution is that <the second source> is perfectly useable for everything other than the length issue.
    — V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 18:40, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
Under my example, the POV warrior simply wants the wrong information in there, and can use the "not truth" mantra to say that policy supports keeping it in. North8000 (talk) 18:51, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
Unrealistic... people don't become POV warriors for no reason. Chances are, if someone feels strongly enough about the length of the ship to POV war over it, we overlooked (or chose to ignore) an important aspect of the length debate. In which case, we probably should have been more neutral and mentioned both numbers in the first place. At minimum, I would ask the POV warrior to better explain why he/she supports to 2735 number.
And let's not forget the third option... deciding to omit both figures (ie deciding that the length of the ship is really an unimportant factoid, one that is distracting us from writing a quality article). Blueboar (talk) 19:10, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
(added later) In a typical POV war, they are not pushing the ship length per se, they want it in there for impression only on a different item which they are warring. (e.g. that that Navy is mighty, or that that ship builder builds excessively large ships) ) North8000 (talk) 20:21, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
This was addressed by myself and Blueboar: "Chances are, if someone feels strongly enough about the length of the ship to POV war over it, we overlooked (or chose to ignore) an important aspect of the length debate."
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 20:30, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
And POV warriors don't stop at one issue, they almost always have an overall agenda that reveals itself pretty strongly, and at some point they get blocked or just ignored. We will never be able to write a policy that prevents editors from causing disruption in the first case, we have to deal with those kinds of issues with policies that help us shut down the disruptive behaviour. --Nuujinn (talk) 19:25, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
They don't get blocked because they are wikilawyering, which means (mis)using the policies rather than breaking them. North8000 (talk) 20:03, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
Maybe they don't get blocked directly for wikilawyering, but an editor who people generally agree is wikilawyering is doing so because they are already on thin ice and they realize it. This policy is not, and should not attempt to be, a behavior policy. Nuujinn is right that "POV Warriors" always end up reveling themselves and that we shouldn't write a specific policy to try to prevent disruption from starting at all.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 20:27, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
The points of the discussion here are: 1. That the wording of the policy can make the situation worse or better. 2. That normal editing practices follow wp;ver but don't follow the other mantras derived from it 3. That, aided by policy wording, those normal practices break down whenever there is a contentious situation. North8000 (talk) 20:46, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
To address these points: 1. You are correct that the wording of a policy can make a situation better or worse... but there is a sub-point: That changing the wording of the policy in an attempt to make one situation better, can result in making another, more serious situation worse (my major concern here) 2. I think normal editing practices follow WP:ver and the mantras derived from it. Non-normal editing occasionally varies from both policy and manra. 3. When there is a controversy, normal editing practices break down regardless of the policy. Blueboar (talk) 23:36, 13 July 2011 (UTC)

A real-life example of conflict between V and T[edit]

Here is a real-life example of a conflict between "verifiable" as in it can be verified it exists in a WP:RS, that conflict with "the Truth". The founder of the Subway chain of restaurants and where he came up with the idea- multiple newspaper articles written over 10+ years stuck to the story that he worked at Mike's Neebas (another sub sandwich chain) in Schenectady, NY one summer when his family vacationed there. Well, one day I noticed that he would have been 9 yrs old when that supposedly he was working there, so I did lots of googling and found that yes, his family did vacation there, and the IDEA of Subway did come from him having eaten at Mike's many times during the summer's in Schenectady, but that he never worked there. So one source, contradicting multiple other sources that had an obvious error and truthiness-problem. Current strict application of WP:RS would assume that one would use the multiple sources as "verifiable" over one other source that conflicts with it. How do we write policy so that it would not come to a bad conclussion for this particular conflict?

WP:IAR? Your example is close to original research, but then again, we all do that sometimes. In such a situation, it is best to a) discuss this on the talk page to get other people's opinion, and b) present it in the article like "while most sources state that he did X (ref 1, 2, 3), he was only 9 years old at the time and he got the idea from Y (ref 4)". If you don't have ref 4, it wouldn't be acceptable, buy with it, it seems alright to me: you give more weight on a minority of sources based on common sense, but you do include the version of the majority of sources. I've had a similar problem with the name of a region, where a source stated that it first appeared in 1844, but many older books used the term (verified through Google books and so on). Because I had no secondary source to support that, only primary sources, but beacuse on the other hand the one secondary source we had was clearly wrong, we eventually excluded the claim altogether. "Verifiability, not truth" is a general rule, not a suicide pact, and editor's came come to different conclusions, but if the choice is between a verifiable claim and an unverifiable claim (e.g. a family member contradicts all reliable sources about his relative, based on personal knowledge), the verifiable claim will trump the unverifiable "truth" (which may be true, or not, but we have no way of knowing this). In such a case, we will not even include the unpublished claim from personal knowledge: it is not acceptable and fails WP:V as it is written now. Fram (talk) 06:46, 14 July 2011 (UTC)
What about this hypothetical–I am convicted of whatever crime that gets national attention (treason or something similarly rare that gets picked up nationally) and the Associated Press spells my last name wrong, or puts my wrong birthday, or gets some other fact wrong about me that would be put into a Wikipedia article on me. While on death row with nothing better to do I somehow have access to internet and complain here about whatever. Since the AP is used by pretty much every news outlet that is a secondary or tertiary source how do we rectify the problem of verifiable sources (all ultimately using the same source as theirs) being simply wrong about a fact. In this scenario we assume any outlets getting the information correct are either unpublished or hard to verify (tv and radio are hard to cite in Wikipedia and often dont go into detail like newspapers on things like birthday and place of origin).Camelbinky (talk) 18:28, 14 July 2011 (UTC)
I wonder if emailing your family and asking them to send a copy of your birth certificate through to something like OTRS would do? A birth certificate should count as a RS, I'd think :o) Of course, that wouldn't work at all if it was something other than your name / date of birth which was wrong. Pesky (talkstalk!) 04:44, 17 July 2011 (UTC)

A suggestion[edit]

Since I've started watching this talk page, I've been having a daily reaction of tl;dr, but I appreciate that "not truth" remains an unresolved issue in many editors' minds. I've said before that I feel strongly that I want to keep "verifiability, not truth". I'd like to suggest something concrete that (maybe?) might help resolve this issue.

Currently, the page begins:

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.

I suggest adding another sentence after it:

The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth—whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether editors think it is true. Wikipedia strives to present what those reliable sources say in as accurate a way as possible.

My hope is that the second sentence puts to rest any implication that we want to knowingly say something that is not true. Thoughts? --Tryptofish (talk) 19:49, 14 July 2011 (UTC)

I've never liked that the wording is "whether readers can check that material" because it isnt our job (and policy is quite clear on this point) to make sure that ALL readers CAN check, only that SOMEONE can check. Perhaps that wording is why we have the perennial discussions regarding sources in English, pay-sites, real-life sources as opposed to being online, and obscure locations of sources that can only be accessed by someone in that area (a museum for instance). Perhaps we can rectify that issue at the same time. As for your change, I dont think it gets the point across enough about the difference between verifiability and truth. Too much opposition exists for removing that phrase unfortunately, but how about–
The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth–whether someone is able to check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, and not the opinions of individual editors. Wikipedia strives to present the most accurate knowledge of a subject as published in reliable sources.Camelbinky (talk) 20:37, 14 July 2011 (UTC)
I like tryptofish's added sentence (it's more... pithy Face-smile.svg), and I like your change to the first (that it's someone, not absolutely anyone). So: "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth–whether someone is able to check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, and not the opinions of individual editors. Wikipedia strives to present what those reliable sources say in as accurate a way as possible."
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 21:04, 14 July 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────That's really good stuff! Both Tryptofish's sentence and the update to it by Ohms & Camelbinky :o) Nice and clear, dead easy to understand by anyone at all, and sums it up beautifully. Pesky (talkstalk!) 09:28, 15 July 2011 (UTC)

Thanks all of you for those comments! I'd like to tweak this a bit more, basically taking what you have done with the first sentence and trying to keep the syntax consistent between the middle and last parts of the sentence, and also trying to avoid the vagueness of the word "someone", which makes me want to ask "who?". So:
The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth—whether one is able to check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether individual editors think it is true. Wikipedia strives to present what those reliable sources say in as accurate a way as possible.
--Tryptofish (talk) 20:11, 15 July 2011 (UTC)
The construct "whether one is able" is rather... stilted.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 23:11, 16 July 2011 (UTC)
Thanks for replying! Yeah, I see what you mean. That came from the stuff about getting away from "readers can check". How about:
The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth—whether anyone is able to check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether individual editors think it is true. Wikipedia strives to present what those reliable sources say in as accurate a way as possible.
What I did was to go back to the wording that you proposed, but change "someone" (which made me wonder "who?") to "anyone". I'd even go for "anyone can check" instead of "anyone is able to check". --Tryptofish (talk) 19:41, 17 July 2011 (UTC)
We need a good "middle ground" effort such as this. But I'm afraid this will be lost / unnoticed on the talk page being farther back. North8000 (talk) 20:10, 17 July 2011 (UTC)
Thanks, me too. Let's try to get some wording that the few of us paying attention can feel good about, here in this relatively quiet space. Then, maybe tomorrow, I'll move it to the bottom as a proposal (as opposed to as a suggestion). --Tryptofish (talk) 20:15, 17 July 2011 (UTC)
I was going to suggest that we move that to a subpage for quiet, as I think North8000 is correct. But this sounds like a plan. --Nuujinn (talk) 20:18, 17 July 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Would it make sense to change "published by a reliable source" to "published by one or more reliable sources"? --Nuujinn (talk) 20:20, 17 July 2011 (UTC)

I don't feel strongly either way, but it's part of a blue link, which maybe (?) argues for brevity. And if it's published by one or more, it's de facto published by one. It would also be OK with me to go with "published by reliable sources". --Tryptofish (talk) 20:37, 17 July 2011 (UTC)
Speaking only for myself, something that moves this paragraph to overall neutral ground regarding accuracy would settle it for me. The issue is that as worded, it is interpreted as say that seeking accuracy (in cases where objective accuracy exists) is not a legitimate activity for editors, or a legitimate consideration. A non-structural statement that merely shifts the psychology of this paragraph to neutral ground on that aspect would do it for me as a compromise. Something as simple as "Verifiability helps achieve accuracy" would do it for me. Folks on one side would say it's not enough, folks on the other side would say it's heresy compared with mantras erroneously mis-derived from wp:ver. Such is the fate of compromises and middle grounds.  :-) Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 20:48, 17 July 2011 (UTC)
How about:
The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth—whether one is able to check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by one or more reliable sources, not whether individual editors think it is true. Verifiability helps ensure accuracy, and Wikipedia strives to present what reliable sources say in as accurate a way as possible. --Nuujinn (talk) 23:58, 17 July 2011 (UTC)
Not sure what I think about that one. It's sort of a compromise to the compromise. But I think I could go with it. North8000 (talk) 11:24, 18 July 2011 (UTC)

additional discussion[edit]

Oh, Oh... or maybe we could say:
  • 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. The fact that an editor or editors are 100% positive that something is true is irrelevent; if it is not verifiable (meaning not published by a reliable source) you can't include it. Seriously... we mean this. We honestly don't care how true you think it is... it has to be verifiable to be included. and by that we mean if you can't point to a reliable source for it, don't add it! Really.
Wait... I think I saw ... nope, sorry, my mistake, the horse is still dead... maybe if we tried beating it with birch rods instead of hickory sticks? sorry for the sarcasm folks... but this is getting ridiculous... we are rehashing stuff we have been over time and again. No one is budging and it really is time to move onBlueboar (talk) 02:12, 17 July 2011 (UTC)
I still like "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is Verifiable truth, not unverifiable truth" followed by the "The fact that an editor or editors are 100% positive that something is true is irrelevent; if it is not verifiable (meaning not published by a reliable source) you can't include it. Seriously... we mean this. We honestly don't care how true you think it is... it has to be verifiable to be included. and by that we mean if you can't point to a reliable source for it, don't add it! Really" thing - all it's doing is swapping "Verifiability, not truth" out for "Verifiable truth, not unverifiable truth".
Would anyone who just swapped that in actually get shot down in flames for doing it? Is there anything actually wrong with that version instead? Is is actually worse? Would you kill me if I bunged it in? Could we discuss that particular version as a possible improvement, rather than go round in circles again? Love you all, guys, really I do (granny speaking here!) ..... but let's try to take a step forwards, rather than backing away from the carcass again (it might only be under anaesthetic, not dead) :o) Pesky (talkstalk!) 04:52, 17 July 2011 (UTC)
Please don't, and please let us finally drop discussion of the first line for some reasonable period of time. This is simply exhausting--do you not see how very long this has been going on, here and at the pump? If you want to proceed, I ask that you reread the entire discussion in the archives in both venues. If you're a fast reader, I expect to see you back in a week or so.... (; --Nuujinn (talk) 13:33, 17 July 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── The problem I have is not just the "not truth", but the combination of this with the "has been published in a reliable source". This means that if I know that something is true and it is verifiable in the usual scientific meaning, I could still not write about it on Wikipedia, if there is no single source from which you can directly verify it. This is at odds with how technical scientific wiki-articles are edited. Count Iblis (talk) 14:52, 17 July 2011 (UTC)

I'm not quite sure how. Can you point to an example, or sketch one out?
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 15:22, 17 July 2011 (UTC)
It is actually closely related to what I wrote here. You can't always verify some given explanation from a single source. Suppose that the given derivation of the quantum version of Poincaré's theorem were challenged, that argument would not be settled by merely pointing to out some references. One woud have to engage in an argument about why the Wikipedia text is an acceptable or not acceptable way to present the mathematical argument that is given in the cited sources. Count Iblis (talk) 17:16, 17 July 2011 (UTC)
I disagree. If those disagreements were in primary sources, we shouldn't be using them in the first place, unless they were backed up by reliable secondary sources. If the arguments were presented in a secondary source, we would document what the secondary source says. We're writing an encyclopedia, not evaluating mathematicians, that would violate OR. That's what academic journals are for. --Nuujinn (talk) 17:59, 17 July 2011 (UTC)
The "disagreement" here would be about verifying a Wiki-text. So, if you have written up a paragraph about some mathemtical subject and you have paraphrased also the mathematical arguments, then verifying that your text correctly represents the references may involve non-trivial math. If there are questions raised about that, then that may not always be settled by pointing to one ref, it can be a matter of detailed arguments and perhaps some refs to textbooks. Count Iblis (talk) 18:10, 17 July 2011 (UTC)
And what you are talking about sounds very much like a WP:SYNT violation... a form of Original research. Blueboar (talk) 01:06, 18 July 2011 (UTC)
Yes, it is not our job to verify the work of academicians. Reporting what a source such as wiki entry written by an acknowledged expert is fine, but if you have to resort to your own calculations or combine other information from other sources to check your math, you've most likely crossed the line into OR. If you are competent to do that kind of work, doing so is more appropriate elsewhere. --Nuujinn (talk) 01:14, 18 July 2011 (UTC)
This does not happen when you write such an article, it's only an issue when someone who doesn't have the necessary background to understand the source, wants to verify the content. This is because paraphrasing the math in a way that is routine from the POV of someone who does understand the source, may not at all be routine from the POV of someone who doesn't. Then because such an editor should still be able to satisfy him/herself that nothing improper is going on w.r.t. OR etc. etc., that should be settled by discussions on the talk page.
But in such discussions, it would then not be ok. for that editor to demand direct citations. Simply put, editors who lack the knowledge to understand the cited refs themselves should not complain about Synth, when others try to fill in the gaps in the knowledge of the editor to let that editor understand it. Count Iblis (talk) 15:13, 18 July 2011 (UTC)
As an example of what Count Iblis is saying, consider star positions. In any one astronomy book or article, it is normal to give the positions as of a consistent date. A star catalog might give the positions as of January 1, 2000. The Astronomical Almanac gives the position as of the middle of the year of the almanac. Converting the position from one epoch to another is too hard for someone with a casual interest in astronomy to do (which might describe many of our readers). But it is too easy to be worthy of publication in an astronomy journal or book (the method might be published, but not the specific results). So there will never be a reliable source that could be cited to prove that a specific conversion in a Wikipedia article was done correctly. The best that could be done would be to cite reliable computer software that would do the conversion. Jc3s5h (talk) 15:31, 18 July 2011 (UTC)
How about this? As a compromise, develop a sentence that follows that addresses the main expressed concerns, and then drop the discussion of the first sentence for 1/2 year? North8000 (talk) 15:26, 17 July 2011 (UTC)
Float some suggestions... perhaps you will come up with something we all like. However, (Speaking purely for myself and not for others) I really like our current language and I have yet to see a suggestion that I think is better. That does not mean better language is impossible, but (being completely honest) it will be a hard sell. Blueboar (talk) 01:06, 18 July 2011 (UTC)
Agreed. I get the sense that I'm (slightly) more willing to consider additions then you are, but... Anything short of substantially altering the first sentence, I'm certainly willing to listen, if not outright support. The "someone"/"anyone" kind of question above is one thing worth considering, for example, but it does need to be pitched well and considered.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 02:08, 18 July 2011 (UTC)
I know better wording will be a hard sell, but I'm still willing to try and work on it. I'm sure everyone here would agree that better wording (by definition!) would be better - and improvement is always worth working towards, no matter how bloody fed-up we are with discussing it! I've read, and read, and read .... (I'm an exceptionally fast reader!) There will be a way of getting a breakthrough moment - one of those "AHA!" things, provided that we don't actually quit. Of course, nothing stopping those who want to quit from quitting, and those who'd really like to improve it from carrying on working towards improvement - we're all volunteers, after all. We all hit times when we just don't want to consider anything at all - we get emotionally bogged down in stuff; of course we do, we're human! But there is a better way, out there, somewhere. It's just up to [probably some of] us to seek it out. Pesky (talkstalk!) 08:17, 18 July 2011 (UTC)

A way to move forward[edit]

OK, it sounds like we actually may have some consensus here... not on language, but on approach. Here is how I think we currently stand:

  • There is strong opposition to changing the first part of the first sentence ("The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth—"

Because of this opposition, we should drop the idea of changing it... at least for now.

  • There is serious hesitation about changing the second part of the first sentence ("—whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether editors think it is true.")

This second part of the first sentence explains what we mean in the first part. A small majority of us really like this language, and are very reluctant to change it. However, if someone can convince us that some other language is actually better, we are willing consider it. It's going to be a hard sell.

  • There is guarded acceptance of the idea of adding additional explanatory language... adding a (yet to be written) second or third sentence to further explain the first sentence.

From my perspective, this last is the best approach. It still won't be easy... but since we are not "removing" what already exists, merely expanding on it, there will be less resistance (and more chance of reaching a consensus on the language).

If people agree with my assessment... perhaps we can move to the next step... proposing and discussing potential additions. Blueboar (talk) 15:12, 18 July 2011 (UTC)

Are you suggesting a specific compromise, like drop the idea of changing it, and agree that we'll add a sentence that addresses the expressed "not truth" concerns? Or is it to saying to drop it in exchange for the possibility of a hope of getting the latter? North8000 (talk) 16:02, 18 July 2011 (UTC)
Neither. I included the caveat of "at least for now" merely as a recognition that opinions could (perhaps, maybe, who knows, unlikely but stranger things have happened) change at some vague point in the future. My point is this... right now, the reality is that there is no fucking way we are going to achieve a consensus to change the first part of the disputed sentence... and very little chance that we will achieve a consensus to change the second part. However, it looks like there is a chance of achieving a consensus on adding some sort of further explanatory language ... so ... I am suggesting that rather than continue to but heads over something that we all know we don't have a consensus on (and probably won't for the foreseeable future), we should focus on doing something that we actually are likely to achieve a consensus on.... finding some sort of acceptable additional language that we can all agree with. Blueboar (talk) 17:24, 18 July 2011 (UTC)
I actually really liked your earlier suggestions of ""The fact that an editor or editors are 100% positive that something is true is irrelevent; if it is not verifiable (meaning not published by a reliable source) you can't include it. Seriously... we mean this. We honestly don't care how true you think it is... it has to be verifiable to be included. and by that we mean if you can't point to a reliable source for it, don't add it! Really!" It's absolutely dead clear. Pesky (talkstalk!) 17:25, 18 July 2011 (UTC)
In case you didn't notice... I was being sarcastic when I said that. We don't need to repeat the same thing six of seven times to get the point across. Blueboar (talk) 17:40, 18 July 2011 (UTC)
Blueboar, I'm cool with that. Basically simply focus on the possible addition and see where that goes. North8000 (talk) 19:53, 18 July 2011 (UTC)
There are quite of few sentences which have been proposed as possible additions: see the above discussion Wikipedia_talk:Verifiability#A_suggestion. Most of them look pretty good to me. Mlm42 (talk) 20:01, 18 July 2011 (UTC)

Proposal for moratorium on proposals[edit]

A proposal that there be no more proposals for changing this policy until 09-01-2011. Count Iblis (talk) 00:57, 14 June 2011 (UTC)


So many proposals have been put to a vote that it now doesn't lead to fruitful discussions. People have to vote to defend some previous position, as you obviously don't want the "wrong proposal" to get adopted. Therefore, it's better to agree to disagree on new wordings for a policy for the moment, say for three months, and work on new drafts quietly. People can then do other things, and discuss the issues here whenever they have time for the next few months. Count Iblis (talk) 15:41, 13 June 2011 (UTC)

  • Count Iblis (talk) 22:17, 13 June 2011 (UTC)
  • This is getting ridiculous.   Will Beback  talk  22:56, 13 June 2011 (UTC)
  • All these proposals sound like evil, dirty, nasty polls and create the misleading impression that enough "yes" votes make for some kind of binding resolution. --causa sui (talk) 19:33, 16 June 2011 (UTC)
  • Discussion is how we evaluate consensus. Requests for comment are how we gauge support and opposition, refine options, and determine what will work. We shouldn't make a habit of shutting down discussion for ideas that are controversial. Ocaasi t | c 20:39, 14 June 2011 (UTC)
  • If you support change, then you should consider that while Blueboar's statement that "the horse is dead" is premature, it may still die of exhaustion. Count Iblis (talk) 21:28, 14 June 2011 (UTC)
  • Maybe I'm misunderstanding the purpose of this proposal, but it seems that the idea is (a) to slow fervent, heated, and hasty discussion down a bit, not stop it entirely and (b) encourage people to resolve disputes through discussion rather than voting. --causa sui (talk) 19:38, 16 June 2011 (UTC)
  • That is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them? SBHarris 20:56, 16 June 2011 (UTC)
  • North8000 (talk) 11:50, 17 June 2011 (UTC)
  • Isn't this a proposal? :-) --Tryptofish (talk) 23:35, 13 June 2011 (UTC)
    • If it !passes, can we overturn it with another proposal? --Nuujinn (talk) 23:41, 13 June 2011 (UTC)

Comment  This is a WP:POINT and has no standing.  Unscintillating (talk) 01:02, 14 June 2011 (UTC)

Reply to comment. WP:POINT refers to disruption caused by someone proving a point, this moratorium will allow the discussions to go ahead but without everyone who feels strongly about this issue to have to be present here every day. Count Iblis (talk) 15:42, 14 June 2011 (UTC)
I'm not sure how I stand on the proposal, but I think it's a reasonable suggestion and not disruptive. --Nuujinn (talk) 19:33, 14 June 2011 (UTC)

"not truth" is a Figure of speech[edit]

The Wikipedia article Figure of speech has theory that helps to understand the problem in the first sentence of the Project Page with not truth.

A figure of speech is the use of a word or words diverging from its usual meaning.
. . .
Figures of speech often provide emphasis, freshness of expression, or clarity. However, clarity may also suffer from their use, as any figure of speech introduces an ambiguity between literal and figurative interpretation.

Thus, those defending the use of this figure of speech are also telling the world that we the writer's of this encylopedia lack sufficient skill in writing to write our policies without ambiguity.  Unscintillating (talk) 01:02, 14 June 2011 (UTC)

No... it isn't a Figure of speech... we actually mean what we say. Like it or not, truth is not the threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia... "but, it's true" has never been an acceptable reason to include material. We require verifiability. Blueboar (talk) 15:40, 14 June 2011 (UTC)
By claiming that not truth is not a figure of speech, Blueboar, you self-identify as a "true believer in WP:V".  Unscintillating (talk) 03:05, 15 June 2011 (UTC)
4500 totally unreferenced BLPs say you're wrong. SBHarris 01:44, 15 June 2011 (UTC)
We have to be more careful in our phrasing and our explanation. We are doing something other than saying "truth is not the threshold for inclusion", we're saying 'not truth', at the end of an unfamiliar phrase (threshold for inclusion). To clearly explain the meaning of a critical phrase is a good idea. Ocaasi t | c 20:41, 14 June 2011 (UTC)
It's actually a phrase that is put into a sentence about another topic (verifiability requirement), intended to strengthen the verifiability requirement, but which, as written, is prone to getting mis-quoted and mis-applied. North8000 (talk) 21:01, 14 June 2011 (UTC)
Is there a debate here? I am with Blueboar here. Slrubenstein | Talk 21:25, 14 June 2011 (UTC)
If you are with Blueboar then you believe that we mean what we say literally here?  Why is Jimbo quoted on the WP:V page, "Zero information is preferred to misleading or false information"..."I can NOT emphasize this enough."  Why does WP:Editing policy say, "...on Wikipedia a lack of information is better than misleading or false information—Wikipedia's reputation as a trusted encyclopedia depends on the information in articles being verifiable and reliable."?  What does the five pillars mean when it says about WP:V, "All articles must strive for verifiable accuracy"?  Are the WP:5 fundamental principles wrong?  Unscintillating (talk) 03:05, 15 June 2011 (UTC)
I don't see a contradiction between Jimbo's statement and Blueboar's.. actually, I'm somewhat surprised this discussion hasn't degenerated into a philosophical discussion about the words "truth", "knowledge", and "information".. these words mean different things to different people. Mlm42 (talk) 03:37, 15 June 2011 (UTC)
So you are claiming that Jimbo thinks that verifiable material that may be not true is acceptable in Wikipedia, and that Blueboar's acceptance of material that may be not true is material that is neither misleading nor false because it is verifiable?  Unscintillating (talk) 03:57, 15 June 2011 (UTC)
No, Jimbo was saying that we shouldn't be including something which is known to be untrue. You're confusing the concepts a bit; in particular the phrase "verifiable material" is being misused. Example: "X says the Earth is flat" can be a verifiable (and true) statement, even though "the Earth is flat" is not a true statement. Reliable sources can be mistaken about things.. reliable sources disagree.. we don't actually have to know the "truth" to write an encyclopedia. Mlm42 (talk) 04:19, 15 June 2011 (UTC)
Please soften the personal characterizations, it might help to add "IMO", IMO.  Unscintillating (talk) 06:35, 15 June 2011 (UTC)
I think that True believers in WP:V don't think that editors should spend time to consider if something verifiable may be not true, that their time is protected by WP:V; in other words, that Jimbo can't claim something is false without POV truth pushing.  Unscintillating (talk) 06:35, 15 June 2011 (UTC)
Also, that is a fallacy, that we can blindly write an encyclopedia without considering the accuracy of our sources.  A specific case, WP:ELNO requires us to know if the source is misleading.  Unscintillating (talk) 06:35, 15 June 2011 (UTC)
It's not a figure of speech. The sentence means this (probably called a "compound predicate" or some such to the grammar mavens):
  • The threshold for inclusion is verifiability.
  • The threshold for inclusion is not truth.
This is not complicated. The construction works exactly like "The book is red, not blue." That sentence also divides in the same manner:
  • The book is red.
  • The book is not blue.
Nobody would look at this sentence, which uses exactly the same grammar, and conclude that the speaker is opposed to books with blue covers. It's equally silly to look at "verifiability, not truth" and conclude that Wikipedia is anti-truth. WhatamIdoing (talk) 04:50, 15 June 2011 (UTC)
The problem is that what the sentence intends to mean is that the "theshold" to inclusion is desired to be(truth+verifiability) rather than (truth-only). It's easily misunderstood to mean (lie+verifiability) rather than (truth-only). Or (who-cares-whether-true-or-not + verifiability) rather than (truth-only). Which rankles.

In addition, there is the serious problem that policies are supposed to be descriptive rather that prescriptive, and a description of how WP is actually written, is that the inclusion threshold is indeed truth-only. HENCE the many, many articles (including those 4500 unreferenced BLPs) that have no citations at all. Most of Wikipedia (if you look at the info bit-by-bit) is actually still-unreferenced. Most of it continues to survive because a lot of people have looked at it and agreed with it as being "true," and left it alone even though still unverified (or at least uncited). That is how WP really actually operates. However (again) if by "verifiable" you mean "verifiable in theory" even though still uncited, that needs to be said up front and early. SBHarris 05:51, 15 June 2011 (UTC)

On "actually operates" it's amazing how few people notice that gorilla in the living room. North8000 (talk) 10:54, 15 June 2011 (UTC)
Sbharris, you seem to be confusing verifiABLE with verifiED. Unreferenced articles are frequently 100% verifiABLE. Material is verifiABLE if the source exists—that is, if an appropriate reliable source has been WP:Published somewhere in the world, even if zero Wikipedians have ever written down what the source is. Citations do not make material verifiABLE (which is what's required as the minimum standard for including information). Naming your sources makes the material verifiED. WhatamIdoing (talk) 16:32, 15 June 2011 (UTC)
Um, that distinction belongs in line one, rather than waiting for lines three and four. "readers can check (in theory) that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source.." So "you could look it up" as we say in arguments, even if we don't know where. And in addition, the "not truth" needs to be qualified to mean "not ONLY truth."

The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability plus truth, not simply truth. This means that readers could (in theory) check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not simply whether editors think it is true.

SBHarris 21:31, 15 June 2011 (UTC)
So where do I sign up to delete all that climate change stuff? You're actually proposing that that information must be both verifiable and True™ before we can include it. Well, I say climate change is not true, and that that there's no debate over abortion rights, that the riots in the Middle East aren't happening, and that Taiwan isn't separate from China, so Wikipedia shouldn't include any of that, according to your proposal.
This obviously isn't going to work. We cannot allow editors to decide for themselves whether something is True and only include what they happen to believe. WhatamIdoing (talk) 21:22, 17 June 2011 (UTC)
I think that in the part of Wikipedia that works (non-contentious topics) that when there is a question, it's very common for the editors to decide which choice IS true/accurate, put in in and then source it. In the part of Wikipedia that doesn't work (contentious articles) this process breaks down; there either is no consensus, or somebody uses Wikilawyering to knock out the result. North8000 (talk) 21:32, 17 June 2011 (UTC)
So it is "not complicated"?  Is not the phrase "not truth" used to disparage people who come forward to represent the "truth"?  Is not the word "truth" there turned into mockery and sarcasm?  Does the word "truth" then "diverge from its usual meaning"?  Why did SV say earlier that not truth is "iconic"?  Does this not come from the "emphasis" of a figure of speech?  So why claim that it is not a figure of speech?  Please support removing this figure of speech from this technical writing.  Thanks, Unscintillating (talk) 07:00, 15 June 2011 (UTC)
It's equally silly to look at "verifiability, not truth" and conclude that Wikipedia is anti-truth. -- It's silly, because it's already clear from a cursory glance at almost all articles about any hot button topic. -- (talk) 14:51, 15 June 2011 (UTC)
  • If this was actually the problem, then we could say, "The threshold for inclusion is verifiability rather than truth." But to focus on the exact syntax, as this proposal does, is a misunderstanding of the problem.—S Marshall T/C 11:30, 15 June 2011 (UTC)

On the articles that work, the editors seek accuracy. On the articles where the current policies are an abysmal failure (basically all of the contentious articles) "not truth" is used to disparage the concept of accuracy when such will serve the POV warrior's purpose. North8000 (talk) 16:47, 15 June 2011 (UTC)

North, much as I support your intentions, changing this phrase won't end edit-warring, where people have different versions of what is accurate, and relying on sources is the only way to go forward. That said, we should emphasize in this policy that: 1) truth on Wikipedia is ascertained through a balance of the best sources; and 2) threshold means there are secondary considerations. Ocaasi t | c 17:09, 15 June 2011 (UTC)
As a result of the context, my comment overstated the role of the first sentence in the problem. North8000 (talk) 17:26, 15 June 2011 (UTC)
  • The addition of "truth" a bad idea. We can agree (in principle) on what is verifiable; we can not expect (at least according to most theories of knowledge) to agree on what is truth. To nclude the word "truth" is a invitation to endless dissension and conflict for politics, religion, and countless other things also. The principle of NPOV, equally important to V, is that we leave the determination of truth up to the reader. TThe second phrase may be intended to explain the first, as saying that we consider ruth as being able to potentially trace all information to its source. But that is what Verifiability means all by itself. This attempt to modify the present wording weakens it. Some things we have gotten right. DGG ( talk ) 00:48, 18 June 2011 (UTC)
  • DGG, the point here is that it's a sin against the basic purpose of an encyclopaedia to publish known error except to refute it. We tend to get this right in practice, for example in Climate change controversy—there are "reliable sources" that say anthropogenic climate change is a myth, but Wikipedia rightly decides to follow the scientific consensus rather than the media. Despite WP:NPOV, which can be summarised as "Wikipedia describes disputes but does not pick sides in them", when the chips are really down (such as in Climate change controversy or Young earth creationism) we choose to tell the truth even though there are reliable sources that disagree.

    This is usually described in terms of selecting the most reliable source, but the logic there doesn't work: how do we select the most reliable source except by deciding which one is the most credible, the most believable, the most likely to be right? And how do we decide that without deciding what's true?

    The reality is that there is such a thing as objective truth, and in cases like the ones I've mentioned, it matters.—S Marshall T/C 18:27, 18 June 2011 (UTC)

  • But, and there is admittedly some irony in this, if we added "truth" the result would be editors pushing the non-scientific version of climate change using that language to claim that they were writing the "truth". --Tryptofish (talk) 19:01, 18 June 2011 (UTC)
  • And we round the bend again. Anything that can be considered "objective truth" (and to be clear, I follow Pragmaticism on this) should be easy to source. How we rank sources to come to consensus varies from topic to topic, and are arrived at through discussion. For climate change, we use scientific sources. For other kinds of information, different kinds of sources are more appropriate. --Nuujinn (talk) 19:09, 18 June 2011 (UTC)
  • Nuujin, you're right to say that "objective truth" is easy to source. Unfortunately, blatant lies are also easy to source, and sometimes, subtle lies too. ("A lot of the books and articles the contributors cite turn out to be no more reliable than Wikipedia itself."Geoffrey Nunberg.) The basic problem with the phrase "verifiability, not truth" is that taken at face value, it allows almost any sourced claim to be made in an article and given weight. We do tend to get this right in practice, as in the examples I've cited, but we get it right by selectively disregarding WP:V and WP:NPOV.

    "Verifiability, not truth" is a soundbite and a good put-down for certain POV-pushers. I understand its attraction. Unfortunately, it's not how we really do things. In the really controversial material we pick and choose which source to follow, and we can only do that by deciding what can be trusted—and hence, what's true.—S Marshall T/C 19:41, 18 June 2011 (UTC)

Understood. But the problem is that we still need to be able to respond effectively to those POV pushers. Somewhere above, I suggested that we retain what you call the soundbite (and I think there is consensus that we should retain it), but that we also follow it with an explanatory sentence to address the issue to which you and others refer. It seems that other editors want a break from discussing further changes for a while, but I think we should revisit this possibility when we are ready. --Tryptofish (talk) 19:48, 18 June 2011 (UTC)
  • I don't think there's any real consensus about the phrase "verifiability, not truth" at all. I wonder if the answer isn't to have a section about dealing with conflicting sources—which is conspicuously lacking from policy at the moment. WP:NPOV skirts closest to the issue at the moment, but I would think deciding between sources is more of a matter of verifiability than neutrality.—S Marshall T/C 19:57, 18 June 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── What about a WP:Science policy (it currently redirects to Wikiproject science) modeled after WP:BLP? The BLP policy makes it very clear that accuracy (a wiki-politically correct word for "truth" :) ) is very important. So, one could also say that any Wiki-article in which a claim about a scientific fact is made must be an accurate reflection of what peer reviewed sources actually say on the topic.

This would then cover pretty much all the Wiki-articles where "truth" is more important than this policy page suggests. So by enforcing that policy one would intervene in the correct way while leaving the other sectors of Wikipedia, where "truth" means something else, alone. Count Iblis (talk) 20:17, 18 June 2011 (UTC)

  • I don't know about that, Count Iblis. It seems to me that we have two established routes to truth: science and law. But to me, that seems tangential to the difficulty I'm trying to solve. For me, "verifiability, not truth" is fine except in the situation where two opposing or mutually contradictory viewpoints appear in different reliable sources. (I'll mention my examples of young earth creationism and climate change controversy again here, because they clarify the sort of situation I'm getting at, and hopefully reduce the risk of misunderstanding.) Where there's a tension between reliable sources we might describe the tension, or we might come down on one side or the other on the basis of which source seems more trustworthy or more closely in alignment with the evidence (which means we decide which is true). In other words, for me, the problem is more about mutually contradictory sources than it is about science.—S Marshall T/C 21:01, 18 June 2011 (UTC)
And there are other things (the birther controversy comes to mind), where there are differing versions of "truth", with blatantly different degrees of factual support, and which are neither science nor law. --Tryptofish (talk) 21:11, 18 June 2011 (UTC)
That's a matter of the historicity of a single event, which is often very difficult to establish. Legal and scientific tests can be involved (think of forensics) but it's not simply a matter of a combination of the two. And for non-repeating events in the past, archeology doesn't help, either. History per se has its own standards, and those are what are used.

Example: consider the John F. Kennedy assassination, which is history informed by science and law. The consensus of editors was to use the findings of the official government panels (of which there have been three) except IN ONE CASE where we didn't believe them (!). How did that happen? Well, they all three concluded that JFK was shot by Oswald alone. The last HSCA panel, however, concluded that there was recorded acustic evidence of an additional 4th shot fired too close to the others to have been Oswald, and thus a second gunman, and thus a conspiracy. However, they could find NO other good evidence for a conspiracy, though they looked harder than anybody has before or since. That last sound (recorded on a dictabelt) was the ONLY evidence for a fourth (missed) shot. After that commission disbanded a lot of good evidence turned up that the recording was NOT of the assassination, and thus the fourth shot, the second gunman, and the only good conspiracy evidence all vanish. Except that the government panel was not about to reconvene to admit that it had erred. So WP's editors decided to make the official WP version that Oswald had acted alone, but mention the screwed-up third panel and the later people who disagreed with this ONE finding of it (but not its many others). However, none of this consideration was given to people who disagreed with the earlier panels (Warren and Clark panels).

Now, all this may seem odd or hypocritical or not playing by any given set of rules. But that is what the majority of editors on this article think happened to JFK, i.e., what was true. It's probably also the conclusion of the majority of historians of the event, save those with an alternative theory and a book to sell. And alas, due to Oliver Stone, the general public doesn't agree with it, either! So alternate theories have been subbed (don't say forked!) off to their own subarticle John F. Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories.

Now, I happen to agree with the conclusion that Oswald acted alone, so I think WP got it right. However, somebody who does not agree with me is going to be very unhappy. All of this raises difficult issues about truth on WP, and how standards of truth-finding are arrived-at. Basically, there aren't any that are universal, especially for history. NOPV coverage of an event like the JFK assassination is basically impossible, do don't even suggest it. One steers by authority and (in a few cases) by later events that the authorities missed because they never addressed them, but many others have picked up since. But that narrative thread is based on editor's judgement. You can always find as many cites as you like for other views. SBHarris 22:42, 18 June 2011 (UTC)

The Kennedy asassination is probably a bad example. A rare borderline case where a fringe theory has more than the normal amount of traction/believers, and slightly-credible material written about it. North8000 (talk) 15:12, 19 June 2011 (UTC) And the ones where there clearly is no objective reality (e.g. is Obama a good president?) are also irrelevant. Here are two involving objective reality that are a little further from that line:

  • Global warming: Did we cause the rise that has occurred? Strong but not conclusive evidence says we did, many, and many rs's say we didn't.
  • Something other than an airliner crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11. Clearly a false assertion, but wp:"rs's" can be found covering claims on both sides. North8000 (talk) 18:12, 19 June 2011 (UTC)
  • You don't even need to get into conspiracy theory. For millions of people, the statement: "Jesus is the Son of God" is held to be absolutely 100% true. Tons of reliable theological sources support the statement. So... can we add that blunt, unattributed, unhedged statement to an article? Of course not. Despite the fact that millions of people consider the statement to be absolutely true, there is no way to verify it (or to put it another way... the divinity of Jesus Christ is a matter of belief rather than verifiability... it can only be accepted as truth or rejected as untruth). What is verifiable however is the statement: "Millions of Christians believe that Jesus is the Son of God". Blueboar (talk) 20:34, 19 June 2011 (UTC)
  • Contrary to what you say, Blueboar, in a Wikipedian sense, it's "verifiable" that Jesus died for our sins, and then rose from the dead. This is because reliable sources have published that, and Wikipedia explicitly draws a distinction between verifiability and truth--which means that "truth" is not part of Wikipedia's definition of "verifiability". In other words, thanks to the phrase "verifiability, not truth", irrespective of whether it's true that Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead, you can still write it on Wikipedia provided you can cite a source. In practice Wikipedia doesn't work like that because editors will make you attribute your statements to your sources if they don't think what you say is true--so on Wikipedia, you can write "Millions of Christians believe that Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead"--but this is despite what policy says, and not because of it. But you can write "the Universe was created about 13.5 billion years ago" without attributing it to a source. (Interestingly, on Conservapedia these situations would be reversed, so you could write "Jesus died from our sins and rose from the dead" quite baldly, but you would have to write "Atheists claim the Universe was created about 13.5 billion years ago".)

    I think the way Wikipedia handles it in practice is a good thing, in general, but I also think it's a problem that in this case our policy doesn't describe our behaviour.—S Marshall T/C 20:49, 19 June 2011 (UTC)

A very accurate summary. But the missing qualifier on your "in practice" statement is that, on contentious articles, anyone can and does capitalize on that conflict between policy and reality and wikilawyer to declare the normal Wikipedia practice to be illegal. North8000 (talk) 21:56, 19 June 2011 (UTC)
Which they will do no matter what we say in the policy. If we remove the "not truth" clause, then the POV pushing wikilawyers will argue that unverifiable material may be added on the grounds that it is "true" (ie someone believe it to be true)... on the other hand, if we leave it in then the POV pushing wikilawyers will argue that marginally verifiable material may not be removed on the grounds that it is "not true" (ie someone believes it is not true). However, because we can limit the addition of marginally verifiable "not true" information (through application of WP:UNDUE, WP:NOR and other policies), the second scenario (while annoying) is less damaging to the project over all. Blueboar (talk) 13:37, 20 June 2011 (UTC)
I'm burnt out on talking about the first sentence. I was viewing this as a useful broader discussion. I was seconding / addressing the more general topic on how the editing process that has created much of Wikipedia's content bites the dust when the article is contentious. The first sentence of wp:ver is only one of many contributors to the problem, and the main causes / fixes relate more to what isn't written in policies than what is. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 13:54, 20 June 2011 (UTC)
  • I don't think we're really talking about the first sentence. I think we're talking about how to handle conflicting sources. We don't need to reinvent the wheel. All that's needed is for policy to document what we already do in cases like young earth creationism or climate change controversy. This will probably entail some, er, clarification of the words "not truth" but that's incidental—a by-product of an attempt to address the real issue.—S Marshall T/C 14:01, 20 June 2011 (UTC)


This proposal grows out of #A suggestion, above, and is an attempt to distill all of the discussions here. The opening of the page currently reads:

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.

I propose to change it to:

The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth—whether anyone one can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by reliable sources, not whether individual editors think it is true. Wikipedia strives to present what those reliable sources say in as accurate a way as possible.

--Tryptofish (talk) 21:38, 18 July 2011 (UTC)

  • Support as proposer. There are various wording tweaks, but what I think is important is the new second sentence: it keeps the iconic "verifiability, not truth" in the first sentence, but it goes some way towards addressing the concern that we shouldn't imply that truth doesn't matter. --Tryptofish (talk) 21:42, 18 July 2011 (UTC)
  • Request Would you consider amending it it a bit to the one from above: "Verifiability helps ensure accuracy, and Wikipedia strives to present what reliable sources say in as accurate a way as possible"  ? — Preceding unsigned comment added by North8000 (talkcontribs) 23:28, 18 July 2011
It's not what I propose, and I would lean towards WP:KISS, but I'm open to anything. Let's see what other users say. --Tryptofish (talk) 18:46, 19 July 2011 (UTC)
Then I'd have to oppose it as written. North8000 (talk) 21:09, 19 July 2011 (UTC)
As is your right. But, especially per what you said before, perhaps you might not want the perfect to be the enemy of the good. --Tryptofish (talk) 21:37, 19 July 2011 (UTC)
I think I mis-spoke. What I really should have said that without that, this such a tiny change that it it is not the middle ground that will set the issue aside for now. North8000 (talk) 23:50, 19 July 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose. Not an improvement. WCCasey (talk) 03:56, 19 July 2011 (UTC)
  • No objection to Tryptofish's version... but not convinced its needed, as this is all covered at WP:NPOV. I don't like North's alternative... I think it is overly wordy and confusing. Blueboar (talk) 21:15, 19 July 2011 (UTC)
  • I think we're looking for a short way to say: "Not truth" means "don't include anything unverifiable, even if you think it's true." It doesn't mean "it's okay to add falsehoods so long as someone's printed them." Ideally we might want to add a link to WP:HANDLE which enjoins editors to correct inaccuracies if they find them.—S Marshall T/C 21:37, 19 July 2011 (UTC)
I'm receptive to that. Would it be too much of an Easter egg to link "strives to present" in the second sentence to that? --Tryptofish (talk) 21:41, 19 July 2011 (UTC)
Re: dealing with "Falsehoods"... The problem is that people can disagree over whether something is "False" (which is another way of saying they disagree as to whether it is "True")... sometimes we have to include discussion of things that we may believe to be false, for the simple reason that someone else (ie a reliable source) believes it to be true (this is what WP:Neutral point of view is all about). Not always (WP:UNDUE and WP:OR both give examples of times when we don't)... but often. Perhaps the confusion here stems from the fact that while we have only one criteria for inclusion (Verifiability) we have multiple criteria for exclusion. Blueboar (talk) 22:08, 19 July 2011 (UTC)
Yes, and my thinking is that, here at V, we might best focus on accuracy, accurate presentation of what is verifiable. --Tryptofish (talk) 22:12, 19 July 2011 (UTC)
  • Support. I'm not convinced it is needed, either, but enough editors have expressed concerns that I think working to address those makes sense. I'm not opposed tweaking the wording of the second sentence, either. I think it might be helpful if an editor thinks a tweak would move that editor from oppose to support would propose that tweak in the oppose, as that will help us get a sense of direction. --Nuujinn (talk) 22:21, 19 July 2011 (UTC)
  • Support for the same reasons as Nuujinn. — V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 22:59, 19 July 2011 (UTC)
  • Support Tryptofish's version (North's addition confuses the issue a bit, I think). Explicitly endorsing the concept of "accurately presenting sources" seems helpful (even though that's what WP:NPOV is all about, as Blueboar mentioned). Mlm42 (talk) 23:15, 19 July 2011 (UTC)
Reconsidering, I've struck my support.. A Quest For Knowledge has a point: perhaps this is better left ambiguous. Mlm42 (talk) 19:15, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
  • I don't think that the second sentence constitutes an improvement, but I don't really care. However, I strongly object to the "anyone" change in the first sentence. "Anyone" will mean "everyone" to most of our editors. Material is still verifiable even if you personally aren't able to read the source for free. We do not want to have people saying that "it says anyone has to be able to check, and I can't read the source, and so this WP:PAYWALLed is banned by the policy". The word you doubtless meant to use there is someone. WhatamIdoing (talk) 23:37, 19 July 2011 (UTC)
    Now that I think about it, I prefer "readers" over "anyone" as well... but not for the reasons WhatamIdoing gives. I prefer "Readers" because it focuses the statement on our audience... as opposed to "editors". Blueboar (talk) 23:52, 19 July 2011 (UTC)
    Actually, I tend to agree with the "anyone" criticism. Originally it was "someone", which seems more appropriate to me, but tryptofish thought that using it generated a "who?" response. I don't know about "readers" either, since that seems to specifically exclude editors, which seems somewhat odd.
    — V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 00:01, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose "Wikipedia strives to present what those reliable sources say in as accurate a way as possible." No, it does not. Wikipedia editors strive to have decent articles and then link to reliable sources to verify the information. We don't exist to summarize what someone else says. No sense adding this, and it could cause some confusion. I agree with WhatamIdoing. Anyone is a horrible addition since all references to books that every single person doesn't own, and newspapers and magazines that archive their older stuff behind paywalls, becomes invalid. Dream Focus 23:54, 19 July 2011 (UTC)
Dream... Re: "We don't exist to summarize what someone else says"... I could not disagree more... Wikipedia is a tertiary source... by definition a tertiary source is one that summarizes what is said in secondary (and to a lesser extent, primary) sources. So, summarizing what others (ie reliable sources) say about a topic is exactly what we exist to do. In fact, we have a policy that explicitly disallows material that isn't a summary of what reliable sources say (see WP:No original research). Blueboar (talk) 00:19, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
I mean, we don't just take one source and copy over everything they say, rewriting it just a bit to avoid copyright problems. Dream Focus 00:28, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
No, we don't and that is addressed in WP:COPYVIO. What in the wording proposed do you object to other than the use of "anyone"? --Nuujinn (talk) 00:35, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
  • Comment. Looks like we have two unrelated changes together here. Hate to say it but we should sort that out first. North8000 (talk) 23:57, 19 July 2011 (UTC)
I think you're right, but I'm not sure I see a way around "anyone" versus "someone", as both have a narrow scope definition, and a wider scope in everyday usage. Are there any other ways to indicate that? --Nuujinn (talk) 00:35, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
I was thinking more just about the poll separate the questions for those two unrelated proposed changes....without that this can only head into a jumble. North8000 (talk) 01:00, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose The added phrase, "Wikipedia strives to present what those reliable sources say in as accurate a way as possible" ironically emphasizes verifiability over factual accuracy - which I thought the complaint was about. The new sentence says that editors have to faithfully repeat mistakes in otherwise reliable sources, which I object to. In any case, it ain't broke, don't fix it. A Quest For Knowledge (talk) 01:09, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
  • About "anyone": I'm having a facepalm moment! I agree with the criticisms of that word! Somehow, I lost track of this when I made this proposal, but I had intended all along to simply say "one". Changed accordingly. (If there are procedural objections: whatever.) --Tryptofish (talk) 15:23, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
I'm shocked that you're not able to retain the entirety of this short discussion with all wording variants at your fingertips, shocked I say! ;). Seriously, good choice, using a more formal form lifts the phrase from the common usage variations to which both "someone" and "anyone" are subject. --Nuujinn (talk) 15:33, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
Yeah, as I remove the spinach from between my teeth, what I can reconstruct was that I had floated the idea of "one is able to", but Ohms correctly pointed out that it was too formal, to the point of being stilted. It later popped into my mind to say "one can", but apparently it also popped out. --Tryptofish (talk) 15:52, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
  • Support With the caveat that, as written, this is such a minor change that it isn't going to resolve the issue. North8000 (talk) 15:45, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
  • (re-adding this after 5 edit conflicts, so I haven't read all of the (4?) posts above yet) Here's a new proposal, with a rational: Just leave it as is. Look, different people interpret the important of verifiability to different degrees. To some, verifiability is paramount, while to others accuracy is paramount. Either extreme, taken to an absurd level, is equally damaging. The shades of grey in between aren't incorrect though, they're simply arguable (which is exactly what we've been doing). I don't fault people for feeling that accuracy is more important than faithfully reproducing what the sources say. In the end, all of this is a "feel" thing, and it also relates to considerations of Original Research, Neutral Point of View, and the specifics of the instance in question. I don't think that there's any formulation that we could make here which would appropriately balance every consideration, so I think that we should be silent on the details here in favor of allowing discussion to occur where specific issues come up in articles.
    — V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 15:53, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
For a while there, the servers were acting up; I hope they've settled down now. I actually don't care terribly much, and only recently started watching this talk page. But it seems to me that a lot of editors are unhappy with the status quo, because of the "not truth" issue, while at the same time a lot of editors (including me) are strongly opposed to removing the "not truth" phrase. Thus, a bigger change won't have consensus, but no action will mean no end to debate. --Tryptofish (talk) 16:37, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
Eh... there may be a lengthy debate (hell, there has been a lengthy debate), but it'll end eventually. I'm just trying to make a case for the Status Quo position, which really says just as much about the issue as adding or changing something in the policy. Discussing these things until we can find some sort of agreement doesn't bother me in the least.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 17:12, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
The recently archived RfCs seem to indicate a community that is split over the "not truth" issue. --Tryptofish (talk) 17:21, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
Which is why we're still discussing it. Face-smile.svg All I'm saying is that "do nothing" is just as much of a choice as "add something!", you know? Actively deciding not to say something can speak volumes.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 17:42, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
Yes, but if we don't come to some kind of compromise by early august, the economy will collapse and we'll fall back into recession....
Seriously, if we can address the concerns of fellow editors, and reach consensus, that's a better outcome, I think. --Nuujinn (talk) 17:46, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
LOL! (actually, I'm somewhat scared of "the economy will collapse", personally...) What I'm offering here though is addressing the concerns of fellow editors, though. the difference is, it's addressing their concerns through means other than adding something to the policy. I'm not saying "I don't want to hear that", but exactly the opposite: "I hear what you're saying. I think that we should address this on a case-by-case basis, rather than through a change to policy." Now, if North chimes in with something about this being a poor solution then I know that I've hit on a true compromise solution. [[=)|grin}}
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 18:09, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
  • weak support. Both variation are ok, though I consider the new suggestion as marginally better. But as I said at the end of the day both work and a seemingly endless discussion about such marginal difference is a big waste of time.--Kmhkmh (talk) 18:06, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
As I'm starting to learn! Face-smile.svg --Tryptofish (talk) 19:49, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
Back to my earlier request/suggestion, I think that with the additional 4 words in the new sentence (so it would be "Verifiability helps ensure accuracy, and Wikipedia strives to present what reliable sources say in as accurate a way as possible" un-disses the idea of seeking accuracy, and IMHO would be enough of a change to mostly settle this North8000 (talk) 20:02, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
North, As we have seen, different people can read all sorts of unintended meaning into a simple phrase... so... Could you explain what you mean by "Verifiability helps to ensure accuracy"? It might help to give us an example of how verfifiability (as you understand the concept) does this? Blueboar (talk) 22:14, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
In terms of the structural operative statement of the sentence, it means nothing, just as "not truth" means nothing in the structural, operative statement of that statement. In terms of the psychological impression left, it legitimizes a goal of accuracy, just as "not truth" de-legitimizes it, sort of a balancing statement regarding that. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 02:02, 21 July 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose, per A Quest for Knowledge. This is well intended but from my point of view what it solves isn't the actual problem. What we're worried about here is rubbish that's appeared in print. We're trying to prevent our policies opening the way for von Däniken or Velikovsky to come into the encyclopaedia. We want a brief wording that explains that creationists and climate change deniers don't get equal time, and why. It needs to be short and pithy.—S Marshall T/C 22:22, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
My reading (please correct me if I'm wrong) of Quest's comment was that it was about not repeating errors from reliable sources, whereas I understand you to be talking more about sources that really are not "reliable". Is it really the case that those kinds of sources pass WP:RS#Reliability in specific contexts for these purposes? And if the issue is "equal time", as opposed to inclusion at all, isn't that already covered by WP:UNDUE? --Tryptofish (talk) 22:35, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
  • Yes, part of what I'm talking is about fringe sources, careless sources, and apparently good-faith sources that nevertheless deviate from the mainstream academic consensus. Yes, it's true that all the detail of that should be covered in WP:RS and WP:UNDUE; all that needs to go in WP:V is a short phrase and a signpost to the details held elsewhere. But the short phrase is important.

    The current wording is "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth." I don't think we should go into "truth" at all, I think it's an unnecessary can of worms, and I think the ideal phrasing would simply be "the minimum standard for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability." But since we're apparently forced to add words to this policy rather than subtract them, we need to explain what we mean by "not truth": (1) that editors don't get to add unsourced unsourceable information even if it's true, and (2) just because something has been published, that doesn't mean it's suitable for inclusion.—S Marshall T/C 22:55, 20 July 2011 (UTC)

On Point 2 - the problem is that something may not be suitable for inclusion in one article, but may be perfectly suitable in another. (for example, It would be absolutely appropriate to discuss what von Däniken says in an article on Theories of alien visitation in ancient times... but not appropriate to discuss it in the article on Mayan civilization. That's exactly why we have WP:DUE. Blueboar (talk) 00:36, 21 July 2011 (UTC)
On Point 1, editors do get to add unsourced information. They don't get to add unsourceABLE information. The two words are not synonymous. WhatamIdoing (talk) 19:53, 22 July 2011 (UTC)
Thank you, WhatamIdoing, for quibbling that point. I've fixed it.—S Marshall T/C 21:15, 22 July 2011 (UTC)
Well, let me float this: how about blue linking the word "accurate" in the second sentence of what I propose, to WP:RS#Reliability in specific contexts? That puts it in line with what you are talking about, and takes it away from what might be construed as slavish transcription of errors and fringe views. --Tryptofish (talk) 23:03, 20 July 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────For clarity, here is the current draft of what I'm proposing, incorporating the corrections that have come up through this discussion:

The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth—whether one can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by reliable sources, not whether individual editors think it is true. Wikipedia strives to present what those reliable sources say in as accurate a way as possible.

--Tryptofish (talk) 23:21, 20 July 2011 (UTC)

FWIW, I think that's fine. I think it's pretty clear that whatever editors think the real problem is, there's no consensus to change the first line, so it seems to be the question is, is this suggested version better or worse than what we have now. I think it's better. --Nuujinn (talk) 01:12, 25 July 2011 (UTC)

As explained recently in detail, there is no consensus to keep the first line unchanged.  Unscintillating (talk) 04:42, 25 July 2011 (UTC)
Maybe, but without consensus for a change, there can be no change, and continuing to argue about the first line after literally months of discussion with no consensus in sight on the "verifiability, not truth" issue is, in my opinion, bordering on disruptive. We should move forward. Some of us are working on wording to address everyone's concerns in the subsequent lines. Care to join us int that effort? --Nuujinn (talk) 09:44, 25 July 2011 (UTC)
I don't think that the most prominent recent attempted-middle-ground proposals address the concerns of the folks that want to change the first sentence, so I don't think that they could settle it. I think that the true middle ground would be a second sentence that really covers/clarifies the items of concern. North8000 (talk) 11:54, 25 July 2011 (UTC)
I thought that a second sentence that clarifies the concerns was the one thing we had been able to agree on. Isn't it? I thought the purpose of this discussion was to outline the new sentence's content, after which we could work on detailed phrasing. At the moment, what's on the table is that the proposed second sentence should look at:-

1) That editors don't get to add unsourceable information even if it's true; and

2) That just because something's been published doesn't necessarily make it suitable for inclusion (and it's agreed that this second limb should contain a bluelink to WP:UNDUE).

Are there other items of concern?—S Marshall T/C 12:03, 25 July 2011 (UTC)

First, to get the straw men out of the way, let's stipulate that everybody wants verifiability to be a requirement for inclusion. Also,that where there are NPOV concerns, that some mandated inclusions per wp:npov are in order. That said, a main concern is that the "not truth" in the first sentence gets widely mis-interpreted that accuracy, falseness of a statement, plausibility / implausibility of a statement have NO place. ZERO place in a discussion or editor judgment about what does or doesn't go in the article. Also that something being sourced is a sufficient criteria for someone to force it to be in the article. And so I think that a compromise 2nd sentence should address that. Adding something like "Verifiability helps achieve accuracy" would help in that respect. North8000 (talk) 12:23, 25 July 2011 (UTC)
"Verifiability helps achieve accuracy" is too terse... it is open to misunderstanding. Perhaps if you explained how "Verifiability helps achieve accuracy" we could reach agreement. Blueboar (talk) 14:55, 25 July 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────I've thought about the discussion above and below, and I have an idea about a way to use a blue link to WP:UNDUE that might help:

The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth—whether one can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by reliable sources, not whether individual editors think it is true. Wikipedia strives to present what those reliable sources, taken as a whole, say, in as accurate a way as possible.

(What I changed was the addition of "taken as a whole".) I think (hope?) that this keeps the intended and agreed-upon meaning that you can't add something unsourced because you think it's true, but it also rules out simply saying that you've accurately quoted a fringe or erroneous source. --Tryptofish (talk) 18:48, 25 July 2011 (UTC)

A new suggestion (not a proposal yet)[edit]

What about adding something along the lines of:

  • However, Verifiability on its own does not guarantee or mandate inclusion. Wikipedia has many other policies and guidelines that can impact how, when, and even whether some specific piece of information is actually included in a specific article (especially, but not limited to, our WP:Neutral point of view and WP:No original research policies). Verifiability means we can consider inclusion, but does not mean we must include it.

For now... think about the concept of what I am suggesting, not the exact wording... I think something like this would address the concerns raised above... making it clear that Verifiability is not the be-all-and-end-all of inclusion... merely the first necessary step in a complicated process. It does not even have to be the second sentence (although I would include it in the lede). Blueboar (talk) 13:23, 25 July 2011 (UTC)

  • Whatever we include needs to be as brief and terse as possible. I think we've agreed on one sentence. I'd certainly be opposed to adding a whole paragraph of explanation when the problem is only caused by two words ("not truth") that aren't essential to the policy's meaning in the first place.—S Marshall T/C 13:43, 25 July 2011 (UTC)
I don't think we have agreed on much of anything... except to consider adding a second sentence (if we can agree on wording). And we have especially not agreed that the two words "not truth" are "not essential to the policy's meaning". (Indeed, many of us think those two words are not only essential but vital). As a general idea, I can agree that brief and terse is good... but perhaps the problem is that we are trying to be too brief and terse. Blueboar (talk) 14:04, 25 July 2011 (UTC)
How 'bout: "Verifiability helps achieve accuracy". North8000 (talk) 14:15, 25 July 2011 (UTC)
(answered above... let's keep discussion of different suggestions to different sections) Blueboar (talk) 14:58, 25 July 2011 (UTC)
  • (going back to the topic) Irrespective of whether "not truth" is vital, certainly we can't add a whole paragraph. I think we want to focus on the point that articles should be both verifiable from published sources and factually correct. (I also think this "factually correct" point is where North8000 is going with his "accuracy" phrasing). How about:-

    "The threshold for inclusion on 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. Verifiability is necessary but not sufficient for inclusion--in other words, a source is needed, but even if a source exists, its content is not necessarily suitable for the encyclopaedia--and the phrase 'not truth' does not make it acceptable to introduce inaccuracies into articles."

    Disclaimer: For the purposes of this discussion I've held my nose and included the words "threshold" and "not truth" in my proposals. This should not be taken to mean that I have changed my position on these phrases. I haven't.

    I know that wording needs tweaking and simplifying. Elegance escapes me today. Suggestions are welcome.—S Marshall T/C 18:48, 25 July 2011 (UTC)

Re: "and the phrase 'not truth' does not make it acceptable to introduce inaccuracies into articles" I have a problem with this ... it could be used to inappropriately exclude POVs that should be included (on the grounds that they are "inaccurate"). I agree that we should be able to correct some kinds of "inaccuracies" (like obvious typos) ... but the fact is, some "inaccuracies" are actually POVs that need to be included. Blueboar (talk) 19:22, 25 July 2011 (UTC)
Taking the compromise of leaving the first sentence as-is as a given, I like it. North8000 (talk) 18:51, 25 July 2011 (UTC)
I wonder if a workable approach would be to say: "Verifiability is necessary but not sufficient for inclusion.", and then have the revised version of the last sentence that I just suggested above. --Tryptofish (talk) 19:14, 25 July 2011 (UTC)
Or maybe in the opposite order? --Tryptofish (talk) 19:15, 25 July 2011 (UTC)
  • @Blueboar:- I was hoping to use "inaccuracies" as a shortcut for "views contrary to the mainstream academic consensus". What I'm getting at here is that we should present the opinion held by the majority of scientists or academics working in the relevant field as if it were fact. If there are two or more mainstream opinions then we present the dispute without taking sides. In other words, I'm trying to document what we do in cases like global warming: there are two views, one held by the vast majority of scientists and one held by a small number of politicians and wealthy special interests, so we present the mainstream scientific view ("accurate") as if it were true and we keep the fringe view ("inaccurate") at a distance. If I unpacked the meaning I'm trying to get into "inaccuracies" then the whole sentence would read:

    "Verifiability is necessary but not sufficient for inclusion--in other words, a source is needed, but even if a source exists, its content is not necessarily suitable for the encyclopaedia--and the phrase 'not truth' does not make it acceptable to introduce any views contrary to the mainstream academic consensus into articles except in accordance with WP:UNDUE."

    But I hate that, for obvious reasons of length. Do you agree with what I'm trying to say, even if you don't agree with the word "inaccuracies"?

    @Tryptofish:- I really think we need to nail down this "inaccuracies" point. I like the "taken as a whole" wording, but I'm not yet sure if or how to include it. Can we put it in the "good idea" box for the moment and keep brainstorming?

    @North8000:- We might have to lose the "accuracy"/"inaccuracy" wording, because let's face it, Blueboar has a point. I think this discussion shows that an inescapable consequence of the "not truth" part of this is that we have to define "truth" before we can get down to cases. I propose to do that by reference to the mainstream academic view.—S Marshall T/C 20:22, 25 July 2011 (UTC)

I was thinking of a vagary to offset a vagary, a non-operative phrase to off set a non-operative phrase. Saying the word "accuracy" in a positive light to offset the denigration of the accuracy quest done by "not truth". I agree / think that if we try to go much further than that with the word "accuracy" it will turn into a quagmire. North8000 (talk) 20:58, 25 July 2011 (UTC)
S Marshal - I can fully accept the concept behind "we should present the opinion held by the majority of scientists or academics working in the relevant field as if it were fact" (and the "two or more mainstream opinions" qualification), however (and this is a huge however) this does not mean we can exclude the presentation of the opinions held by the minority of scientists and by non-academics... and that is my concern with your language. I think "mainstream POV" pushers will misconstrue your proposed language to mean that only the mainstream view should be included. NPOV makes it clear that we often must include ("inaccurate") minority and non-accademic views (per WP:DUE)... the difference being that we can present such views as being "opinion". Blueboar (talk) 21:07, 25 July 2011 (UTC)
Hmmm... this may be a fruitful distinction... raw inclusion/exclusion determination as distinct from presentation as fact/opinion. Blueboar (talk) 21:19, 25 July 2011 (UTC)
  • I have a question. What's really wrong with adding a paragraph (or, at least, fleshing out the hanging first sentence into a full paragraph)? There's certainly no need for unrestricted verbosity, but we don't need to be terse to the point of causing misunderstanding (which is where I think we currently are, based on... all of this).
    — V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 21:18, 25 July 2011 (UTC)
  • @Blueboar:- I was inching towards that with we present the mainstream scientific view ("accurate") as if it were true and we keep the fringe view ("inaccurate") at a distance. It's grounded in the examples we've already discussed (Apollo program vs. Moon landing conspiracy theories, etc.) There can be several views, but the mainstream academic view shall be in the simple indicative ("Neil Armstrong landed on the moon") and the alternatives, if there is a consensus to express them at all, shall be in the reportative ("Source X disputes that Neil Armstrong landed on the moon"). But it's a bit tangential to the main point.

    @Ohms law:- The problem I see is that editors whose attention is directed to this policy may not have a very long attention span. I'm anxious to try to keep it within the TLDR safe-zone. I wouldn't agree to a whole new paragraph unless convinced it was necessary and I'm a long way from that!—S Marshall T/C 21:55, 25 July 2011 (UTC)

    I agree that hitting a TLDR point is bad (which is the point that I was making re: being overly verbose), but I don't think that we're anywhere near that point. As a matter of fact, this sprawling discussion is exhibit #1 to the case that we're being overly terse here, to me. Besides, I don't think that policy pages are really intended to be consumed in the same manner as articles are. We can be as verbose as needed to be understandable, as long as we organize the page(s) as a whole into bite sized subsections (including through paragraphs).
    — V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 22:06, 25 July 2011 (UTC)
S Marshall I laud your attempts to get deeper into / more specific regarding accuracy, but think it could turn into a quagmire because you are dealing with just one of the many cases. I'll give you a pervasive but common one. An otherwise-reliable source (and wp:rs) makes an error and uses a clearly erroneous (negative) adjective to describe Politician X. It is so clearly erroneous (like saying Obama has three eyes) that it has never been said elsewhere and so there are no other reliable sources that say otherwise (like no sources that say he has two eyes). Also, so clearly false that none of the combatants will discuss whether it is false or not, and say that (per "not truth") policy says that accuracy is an illegitimate conversation. The persons who want politician X to sound bad want to keep the word in. They say "accuracy" has no place in the conversation, that a wp:"RS" said it, and nobody can produce a RS that directly says the opposite, so it stays in. I would like a few words in the policy that would vaguely tend to legitimize accuracy as a valid consideration in the conversation. For me this is a real world, common representative example to deal with. North8000 (talk) 22:36, 25 July 2011 (UTC)
S Marshall, my answer to the question you asked me way above is: yes, of course. But, that said, I'm having trouble thinking of anything having to do with "inaccuracies", as they are covered by WP:UNDUE, that would not be covered by taking the reliable sources "as a whole". It seems to me that everything that you raise here as "inaccuracy" is what comes from either cherry picking sources, or from giving some sources undue weight. Do I misunderstand? --Tryptofish (talk) 22:53, 25 July 2011 (UTC)
  • @North8000:- You probably already know that I'm basically with you on this.  :) We've got to define what "accuracy" means before we'll get anywhere with this, I think. I want to avoid being circular by defining "accuracy" as either "uncontroversial fact" (e.g. Obama has two eyes, or Paris is the capital of France) or else "mainstream academic viewpoint" (e.g. species exist because of evolution and baraminology is bunk). The alternative is to define accuracy in terms of what is and isn't true, which is a major problem in a policy that begins with "not truth". Yes, I know it's awkward and unnecessary.

    @Tryptofish:- Cherry-picking sources is what encyclopaedia editors are supposed to do. We're supposed to evaluate the sources, select the best ones and summarise what they say. We're not required to indiscriminately use all the sources available and I don't think that's even a good idea. I agree wholeheartedly on the weight point, and I like the idea of linking "taken together" to WP:UNDUE. I don't yet know how to include it in this sentence that we're considering, or even if this sentence is the best place to put it; I hope other editors will chime in on this.—S Marshall T/C 23:37, 25 July 2011 (UTC)

What we are talking about is summarizing how WP:NPOV (and especially WP:DUE) interacts with WP:V. I don't think that can be done in one sentence. Blueboar (talk) 23:47, 25 July 2011 (UTC)
Blueboar, wp:undue kicks in when there is a NPOV question. One of it's biggest flaws (that it only covers items that reflect on a question-in-dispute) even further narrows that. I think that we should leave it to wp:npov to cover those cases. One example is being selective about ("cherry picking") sources. This is an essential process for normal good editing, but needs to stopped when there is an npov type dispute.
If you are reflecting on my specific example, at the granular level it is also a wp:ver wording problem. The "not truth" wording allowed folks to say that accuracy (clear falseness of the item) could not even be a consideration in the conversation.
S Marshall, maybe you are right, this could be simpler than I thought when you spoke of defining accuracy as uncontroversial fact, then that means that accuracy can be taken into consideration at least until it is decided that it is controversial. North8000 (talk) 10:06, 26 July 2011 (UTC)
Re: The "not truth" wording allowed folks to say that accuracy (clear falseness of the item) could not even be a consideration in the conversation. .... I have to ask: which conversation? In a conversation that is about verifiability (whether some potentially inaccurate factoid is verifiable or not), I would agree that discussions about accuracy should not be part of the conversation (the source either supports the item or it does not). However, in a discussion about the reliability of the source, or the proper neutral presentation of the item (especially due weight discussions), then accuracy can and should be part of the conversation.
When a POV pusher argues: "I don't care if you think X is inaccurate... WP: V says "Verifiability, not Truth"... The source says X... X is verifiable... it stays in the article", I think the proper reply (assuming the source does indeed say X) is usually: "Verifiability is not the be-all-and-end-all of inclusion... it is only the first step...there are other policies and guidelines that impact inclusion". In other words don't argue about Verifiability... concede Verifiability... and shift the conversation to discussing other policies and guidelines. Focus the conversation on WP:RS (ie question whether the cited source is reliable for that specific fact) or WP:NPOV (ie discuss presentation and Due Weight). Once you have changed which policy/guideline you are talking about... then questions of accuracy are appropriately part of the conversation again. Blueboar (talk) 12:38, 26 July 2011 (UTC)
Been there, done that. The end result was that by doing all of that, and people spending about 10,000 words of discussion, (a very good guess, not a wild exaggeration) the erroneous item got removed. ~10,000 words needed to fix that is a BIG problem. The response through the whole 10,000 words was per the above, and things like "our job is not to decide what is true, it's to report what RS's say". Or, "find a wp:RS that says otherwise". Or, "any statement to the contrary is OR". BTW, can you find a wp:RS that says that OBama is not a right wing extremist or that he does not have three eyes? If not, either of those statemetn would be OR. I only brought up that example and am taking it further because I think it is a good illustration of several common phenomenon, how the wording has promulgated accepted chants which are misquotes of wp:ver, and how it allows allows people to powerfully and almost-invincibly mis-use wp;ver when it serves their purposes. North8000 (talk) 14:12, 26 July 2011 (UTC)
To which I would reply that there is no need for me to find a source that Obama is not a right wing extremist or that he does not have three eyes... since I have no intention of including a statement actually saying that he is not a right wing extremist or that he does not have three eyes. We don't require Verifiability for things that we don't say in an article, only for things we do say. So... we are only talking about whether to include the affirmative statements that he is a right wing extremist, and that he does have three eyes.
If you have already laid out multiple arguments, pointing to multiple policies and guidelines... all indicating that the statement in question should not be included... then the situation has gone beyond a simple policy or content dispute... the other editor's continued insistence on inclusion becomes a question of "WP:IDIDN'THEARTHAT", and thus disruptive behavior. It is time to bring in an admin to deal with that disruptive behavior. Blueboar (talk) 15:27, 26 July 2011 (UTC)
  • Could we possibly return to discussing the phrasing of the proposed sentence?—S Marshall T/C 16:03, 26 July 2011 (UTC)
Sure... I will now formally propose:
  • 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. However, passing the threshold of Verifiability does not, on its own, guarantee or mandate inclusion. Wikipedia has many other policies and guidelines that can impact how, when, and even whether information is included.
OK... it's not one sentence, but I think it is still terse and to the point. Blueboar (talk) 16:28, 26 July 2011 (UTC)

Okay, starting from Blueboar's revised lede with the three-sentence structure, and tweaking a bit to include the views expressed by North8000, Tryptofish and myself, I get:-

Progress?—S Marshall T/C 17:36, 26 July 2011 (UTC)

I can fully agree with the part of this that is a re-write of my language... I can not agree with the addition (the part that starts with: "Despite the words....".) I have serious concerns (and even strongly disagree with some phrases) in your addition. Your addition could easily be misused to omit minority viewpoints (and even some notable Fringe viewpoints) that WP:NPOV says must be discussed. I strongly disagree with "content should still be accurate"... no, Content does not need to be "accurate" to be included... content needs to be presented acurately when/if included. I strongly disagree with "where sources conflict, the mainstream academic view should prevail"... No... the mainstream view should be neutrally presented as being such, and the minority views should be neutrally presented as being such... but one does not "prevail" over the other. Blueboar (talk) 18:11, 26 July 2011 (UTC)
Impact (IPA: ˈɪmpækt) vt.: What a rock does when it intersects with your head at high velocity.
The word you want is either influence or affect. WhatamIdoing (talk) 18:06, 26 July 2011 (UTC)
Good point... of the two, I prefer "affect" (unless there is a third word that is even better). Blueboar (talk) 18:18, 26 July 2011 (UTC)

"Verifiability is necessary but not sufficient for inclusion." I'm fine with that.

"However, passing the threshold of Verifiability does not, on its own, guarantee or mandate inclusion." Seems no different in meaning than the previous sentence, and is much, much wordier.

"Wikipedia has many other policies and guidelines that can impact how, when, and even whether information is included." (or "—other policies and guidelines can impact how, and even whether, information is included.) A lot of words to say rather little (regardless of impact/affect). How about: Verifiability is necessary but not sufficient for inclusion, because other policies apply along with this one.?

When I used the phrase "cherry picking" of sources, I was, of course, referring to the common use of the phrase to denote POV source selection, not editorial good judgment. I'm still waiting for anyone to explain how "Wikipedia strives to present what those reliable sources, taken as a whole, say, in as accurate a way as possible." fails to cover it. --Tryptofish (talk) 18:27, 26 July 2011 (UTC)

  • @Blueboar:- Please start to compromise, because I feel as if I'm making substantial concessions and you're not making any at all. As a starting point, will you please identify any phrasing that you would accept—any phrasing at all—that enjoins editors not to introduce inaccuracies into the encyclopaedia.—S Marshall T/C 19:06, 26 July 2011 (UTC)
I would accept: "See our WP:NPOV Policy for guidance on when you must include material you believe is inaccurate, and when you may omit it."
I can't go beyond that... because WP:NPOV indicates that sometimes you have to include things that you might think are inaccuracies in the encyclopedia, and sometimes you don't. It is a complicated issue, one that takes an entire Policy page to explain. It simply can not be summed up in a one or two sentence "sound bite" here on this page. Blueboar (talk) 21:26, 26 July 2011 (UTC)

But dealing with this is a consequence of including "not truth" in the policy: we have to explain that the phrase "not truth" isn't a licence to lie. So much simpler to omit it. Anyway. Here's proposed wording #4:

Needs to be shorter, of course, but are we getting there now?—S Marshall T/C 22:16, 26 July 2011 (UTC)

About half of everybody wanted to change the first sentence. IMHO, we need to remember that leaving the first sentence as-is, and adding a a second sentence which significantly addresses the issue is the middle-of-the-road compromise. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 22:25, 26 July 2011 (UTC)

I could support S Marshall's latest proposal... I would prefer that " as accurate a way as possible, " be worded "... as accurately as possible", but I definitely don't insist on that change. As for length... why does it need to be any sorter? I think this sums up a complicated issue well. Blueboar (talk) 23:59, 26 July 2011 (UTC)

Tweaked for brevity:

It strikes me that the first sentence shouldn't begin with "The threshold", because WP:V isn't the only threshold. I'd prefer "A threshold", or ideally "A minimum standard".—S Marshall T/C 00:09, 27 July 2011 (UTC)

(edit conflict) How about:
That says the same things, but is an attempt to make it more succinct. Personally, I wouldn't change "The" at the beginning. --Tryptofish (talk) 00:14, 27 July 2011 (UTC)
Looks good, it incorporates Blueboar's suggestion which I think was a good one. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 00:49, 27 July 2011 (UTC)
Fine with me. My goodness... does this mean (dare I say it)... consensus? (or at least a consensus amongst the three or four of us who were pig headed enough not to give up on the discussion)? Blueboar (talk) 01:39, 27 July 2011 (UTC)
That is subtle, there is hidden meaning in the Wikilink, whereas with a straight reading, editors may claim an entitlement to the accurate reporting of falsehoods.  A partial fix is to include, along with "other policies such as WP:NPOV", a mention of WP:Editing policy (the policy that states, "on Wikipedia a lack of information is better than misleading or false information").  Also, where do we get in the point that material from reliable sources known to be inaccurate should not use Wikipedia's voice, but rather should use inline attribution of the source?  Unscintillating (talk) 02:47, 27 July 2011 (UTC)
Well, we can't build Rome in this 'lil ole' sentence.  :-) North8000 (talk) 03:12, 27 July 2011 (UTC)

We can try to address what Unscintillating says, though. In particular, that editing policy link strikes me as highly relevant to the paragraph we're trying to concoct.

How's that?—S Marshall T/C 08:27, 27 July 2011 (UTC)

@S Marshal -I thought the goal was to not change the first sentence... try again. Blueboar (talk) 12:33, 27 July 2011 (UTC)
@Unscintillating - re: "Also, where do we get in the point that material from reliable sources known to be inaccurate should not use Wikipedia's voice, but rather should use inline attribution of the source?"... that is done through linking to WP:RS#Reliability in specific contexts (which is the link attached to the word "Accurately" in the text). Blueboar (talk) 12:53, 27 July 2011 (UTC)

Sigh. Here's the first sentence restored in all its glorious wonderfulness, but with the other agreed fixes and clarifications included.

There.—S Marshall T/C 14:15, 27 July 2011 (UTC)

A different approach[edit]

Looking at Wikipedia:Editing policy#Adding information to Wikipedia I am a bit concerned that the "misleading or false information" quote is taken out of context ... I have a new suggestion that puts that context back... What about:

Does this work for people? Blueboar (talk) 15:09, 27 July 2011 (UTC)

IMHO that sort of goes farther away from addressing the main concern. North8000 (talk) 16:20, 27 July 2011 (UTC)

That's because Blueboar's version strips out Tryptofish's wording, I think, North8000. I think the phrase "Please show that information is verifiable and not original research by referencing reliable sources" is redundant with the second paragraph, which begins "To show that it is not original research, all material added to articles must be attributable to a reliable, published source". The phrase "unsourced information may be challenged and removed" is redundant with the third paragraph, which contains the words "Anything that requires but lacks a source may be removed", and the phrase "Wikipedia's reputation as a trusted encyclopaedia depends on the information in articles being verifiable and reliable" strikes me as unnecessary. If I strip out those three from Blueboar's version, and if I also add back in Tryptofish's preferred wording which the previous version removed, I get:

S Marshall T/C 16:32, 27 July 2011 (UTC)

Suggest saying that other considerations rather than just other policies apply. North8000 (talk) 17:00, 27 July 2011 (UTC)
I agree that much of what I suggested was redundant... but it is actually a direct quote from WP:Editing policy. It is the context in which the statement "a lack of information is better than misleading or false information" comes from. To quote that phrase away from its surrounding context, in my mind is just as bad as taking "Verifiability, not truth" out of its surrounding context. We should not try to correct one out of context policy misuse by creating another. Blueboar (talk) 17:46, 27 July 2011 (UTC)
  • It's not out of its context, though; the context appears in the subsequent two paragraphs.—S Marshall T/C 17:56, 27 July 2011 (UTC)
In WP:EP, the phrase "lack of information is better than misleading or false information" is made in the context of excluding unsourced (and potentially unsourceable) information... but in your proposal you link it to the concept of excluding verifiable (ie sourceable) information. That is taking the phrase out of context. Blueboar (talk) 18:12, 27 July 2011 (UTC)
Okay, no problem, we can have this conversation again if you like. Editors can have reasons to want to insert sourced but false information, such as here. It's ridiculous that the policy on verifiability doesn't just let them do this, it positively disempowers editors who want to prevent it. To verify something means to confirm that it is true. (See wikt:verify). Therefore the whole purpose of these edits is to mitigate the phrase "not truth" in such a way that we say it is not acceptable to introduce untruths into the encyclopaedia. Making the change you propose nullifies the whole point of what we're trying to do.—S Marshall T/C 18:41, 27 July 2011 (UTC)
Due to RL, I can only make a quick comment right now, but how about this: If I understand right, the issue raised by Unscintillating is a matter of an Easter egg link (something I had been uncomfortable about, myself, in fact). Maybe there's a way of going back to that near-consensus version, but unlinking what was disputed, and instead, adding that link, under its actual name, after NPOV as other policies that apply. --Tryptofish (talk) 19:48, 27 July 2011 (UTC)

S Marshall summarized the core of it perfectly: the following is 80% stolen from them: Editors can have reasons to want to insert sourced but false information...the policy on verifiability doesn't just let them do this, it positively disempowers editors who want to prevent it....therefore the whole purpose of these discussed changes is to mitigate the phrase "not truth" in such a way that we say it is not acceptable to introduce untruths into the encyclopaedia. Or, at least to stop actively dis-empowering editors that want to prevent it. (Only) If we can keep that in mind, I think we can work up something that will actually settle this. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 22:28, 27 July 2011 (UTC)

In this context, the "lack of information" quotation is going to be interpreted as "I should delete anything that I personally disagree with, because telling people that scientists believe AGW is going to 'mislead' some readers into believing in climate change."
This proposed change is not okay, and there is no way to re-phrase it that will make it be okay. When to exclude verifiable material is not the job of this policy. WhatamIdoing (talk) 23:15, 27 July 2011 (UTC)
I'd be delighted to take this policy back to what its actual job is, and propose that we do that by amending the whole first paragraph to read: A minimum standard for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability—whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source. All the extra verbiage is caused by the confusing and misleading phrase "not truth" which we originally sought to remove, but it's a lot simpler to take it out. I've only put the current phrasing in as a good faith attempt at compromise.—S Marshall T/C 23:35, 27 July 2011 (UTC)
Yes, leaving "not truth" in when there was no consensus to keep it (or to take it out) is a big compromise. Even a second sentence which significantly addresses the issue would not be an equal one, but in the spirit of compromise, I think many would settle for it. North8000 (talk) 23:41, 27 July 2011 (UTC)

Another version[edit]

OK, after looking more carefully at the issues raised, I suggest:

Does that cover everything? (That said, I'm not really sold on the need to add the part about misleading/false, because I think it ends up stepping on the "not truth" part. I can just hear someone saying "Well, do you want truth or not?!" At the same time, I accept that there are concerns about leaving "not truth" insufficiently explained, and I'm ready to go with consensus about this, either way.) --Tryptofish (talk) 00:18, 28 July 2011 (UTC)

Sounds good. North8000 (talk) 01:31, 28 July 2011 (UTC)
Again, I object to the mischaracterization of what it being said at WP:EP. It is not a "requirement not to add misleading of false information", it is a restatement of WP:V's requirement not to add unverifiable information. So, no I don't agree to this last version. Blueboar (talk) 02:07, 28 July 2011 (UTC)
I'm with Blueboar, for the same reasons. WhatamIdoing (talk) 04:02, 28 July 2011 (UTC)
As I said in my parenthetical comment, it makes me uncomfortable at the least. On thinking further, I object to it too! But I think that's the only problem. --Tryptofish (talk) 21:09, 28 July 2011 (UTC)

We came close to consensus[edit]

I think we should go back to the version before we tried quoting WP:EP ... as being the closest we have come to a consensus:

Does anyone actually object to this version? Blueboar (talk) 02:17, 28 July 2011 (UTC)

No specific objection, but it does not address the issue and so would not resolve it. North8000 (talk) 02:36, 28 July 2011 (UTC)
I don't object to this, but I begin to believe that I will object to anything that "addresses the issue". I begin to believe that "the issue" is that some editors want the policy to say something that this policy has never said and that I believe that the policy absolutely must not say. Inclusion must never be determined on the basis of my personal beliefs about whether the material in question is "true" or "accurate" or "not misleading" or "not false" or anything else that you want to call it. WhatamIdoing (talk) 04:05, 28 July 2011 (UTC)
That's probably why we talk about "the" requirement for inclusion; once material is eligible for inclusion, in other policies we decide the WP:DUE weight for things that are false, etc.  Unscintillating (talk) 07:33, 28 July 2011 (UTC)
WhatamIdoing, earlier in this discussion we cited quite a lot of examples of where inclusion is determined on the basis of editors' beliefs about whether the material in question is true. For example, pyramids contains no mention of ancient astronauts. Apollo program contains no mention of the moon landing conspiracy theories. Earth describes our planet as an oblate spheroid and contains no mention of any possibility that it might be flat. I could go on and on.

In fact, I think I will. Paul Revere doesn't contain any of Sarah Palin's theories about him. History of Australia doesn't mention the dreamtime. Fossil contains no mention of the possibility that all the fossils were implanted by God in 4004BC.

I submit that in controversial encyclopaedia areas, inclusion is usually determined by what editors believe is true; I submit that this is quite normal practice already, and the only stage that remains is for policy to document practice.—S Marshall T/C 08:31, 28 July 2011 (UTC)

Excellent points, S Marshall, thank you.  Unscintillating (talk) 09:00, 28 July 2011 (UTC)
Why? A flat earth section in Earth would be fine with me, so long as it was sourced, and we have a Flat_earth article. We have Dreamtime, Ancient_astronauts, Creationism, Moon landing conspiracy theories and one could add Palin's view of Paul Revere either in her article or in a "popular culture" section in Revere's article. The only thing V does and the only thing is should do is specify that the material must be verifiable. Truth has nothing to do with it, esp. when editors disagree. We use RS policy to make determinations of which sources are more appropriate for a given topic, and NPOV to settle issues of whether to include a sourceable assertion. Community consensus informed by core policies is how we decide, and I'm sure we sometime get it wrong. Every topic S Marshall mentioned is suitable for inclusion if it is not already included, and V does not determine where something appears, how it is presented, or what sources we value most for a topic area. And in my experience, the worst of the POV pushers are always driven by what they say is the truth, see esp. the quote from Swift attached to point 72 here. --Nuujinn (talk) 11:36, 28 July 2011 (UTC)
Nonsense. This is far, far wide. None of these things are even remotely suitable for inclusion in the articles I mentioned. Can you imagine the Encyclopaedia Britannica vacillating or wavering over the shape of the Earth? Or discussing baraminology as a serious alternative to evolution? Of course they wouldn't.—S Marshall T/C 13:26, 28 July 2011 (UTC)
I think S Marshal is off base here... I don't think it is correct to say that these are examples of "situations where inclusion is determined on the basis of editors' beliefs about whether the material in question is true". For every one of the examples, the reason the articles shouldn't mention them has nothing to do with truth/untruth or accuracy/inaccuracy of the theory... the reason these articles don't mention the theory is that, within the context of the articles in question, mentioning it would give UNDUE weight to a Fringe (or at lest extreme minority) viewpoint. In other words, While WP:Verifiability justifies including these theories somewhere in Wikipedia, WP:NPOV (and especially WP:UNDUE) justifies saying "sure, but not in the context of this article. Blueboar (talk) 11:53, 28 July 2011 (UTC)
I'm quite sure that the vast majority of Wikipedia editors would tell you that the fringe theories I mentioned are wrong. As in, false. Untrue. Misconceptions. Hoaxes. Lies. And I'm sure that attempts to introduce these fringe theories will be removed. That diff is informative: it describes the Sarah Palin interview as "not a reliable source", because the editor removing it has made the value judgment that Sarah Palin was wrong. And he was right to make that judgment.

This business of being open-minded and open to including whatever can be sourced is bad and wrong. An encyclopaedia's job is to inform—to educate. Anyone who's prepared to publish known error in an encyclopaedia, except to debunk it, needs to go and find another hobby.—S Marshall T/C 13:26, 28 July 2011 (UTC)

And I would agree with the majority who say that these fringe theories are "false, untrue, misconceptions, hoaxes, lies." However, my personal views (or those of other editors) do not mean I can or should exclude all mention of them from Wikipedia. We might (and indeed do) exclude them from a specific article (on WP:UNDUE grounds for example), and yet we might (and often do) include them in another article. You are correct in saying "An encyclopaedia's job is to inform—to educate."... and that includes informing-educating people about what notable Fringe theories say. We can (and frequently do) debate where, when and how we do this... and have leway as to whether to do so in a specific article... but that does not mean we can completely exclude them. That is supported by multiple policies and guidelines. Blueboar (talk) 14:10, 28 July 2011 (UTC)
That's just it: The astronaut fairy tale about the pyramids is IMO "wrong", "false", "stupid", etc., but the fact that this story exists is verifiable, which is the sole subject of this policy. The fact that this story exists should not be mentioned in, say, Myocardial infarction (where 100% of editors will agree that it is off-topic) is absolutely, entirely irrelevant to WP:V (but highly relevant to DUE and EP). If some idiot adds a well-sourced summary of Ancient astronauts to Myocardial infarction, you're not going to revert it with an edit summary that says "Rv unverifiable material", because the material is verifiable. Instead, you're going to revert it with an edit summary that says something like, "Rm off-topic, WP:UNDUE, irrelevant information."
We should not be trying to make WP:V do the jobs of these other pages. WhatamIdoing (talk) 14:53, 28 July 2011 (UTC)
Well said. Blueboar (talk) 21:22, 28 July 2011 (UTC)
Indeed. --Nuujinn (talk) 00:01, 29 July 2011 (UTC)
Blueboar, a partial fix is to add to the list of "other policies" a link to WP:EP. 
FYI, I am not objecting, but I question claiming what "Wikipedia strives" to do, haven't we said over and over that WP:V is not the place to define Wikipedia?  And I think it is not preferred as technical writing for the Wikilink to have meaning that is not in the open text, but this particular case seems to be a political compromise.  Unscintillating (talk) 09:00, 28 July 2011 (UTC)
If you mean saying: "...other policies, such as WP:Neutral point of view and WP:Editing policy, also apply"... I would have no problem with that. Blueboar (talk) 12:14, 28 July 2011 (UTC)

Two notes. I think that S Marshall is absolutely right, in the 80-90% of Wikipedia that works, editors routinely exclude sourcable material because it is wrong or false. Second, I wish folks would stop implying that these efforts of ours are to inject new off-topic stuff. IMHO the efforts are all just to try to mitigate the damage being caused by two very off-topic words ("not truth") that are in the policy. The bolded stuff above summarizes it well. North8000 (talk) 14:54, 28 July 2011 (UTC)

I'm pretty close to agreeing with Blueboar's change above, perhaps with the tweak of unlinking "accurately" and putting the link after NPOV. As I think about it, I also agree with what WhatamIdoing said: that "addressing the issue" is likely to undo the meaning of this policy, as it has always existed. I think that if we say that the threshold is verifiability not truth, but we expect you to remove what you think is untrue, then we might as well put this entire guideline up for deletion. But, on the other hand, something else occurs to me. Think of V as being "the threshold": it's the first thing you have to pass, and if it's unverifiable, it cannot be added and it ends right there. But if it passes V, it has passed "the threshold", but hasn't yet fully gotten "into the building". It's like passing the first step, so now there are more steps to pass. That's where "truth" comes into play. Fail verifiability, and the story is over. Pass verifiability, and then the next step is the need to pass truth. This page is about the first step, the threshold. Other policies cover the subsequent steps, truth. --Tryptofish (talk) 21:21, 28 July 2011 (UTC)
As an aside... S Marshal raised the example of reverting out discussion of Sarah Palin's Paul Revere quote from the Paul Revere article... because the editor said Palin was an unreliable source. Having looked at the edit... and the discussions on the talk page... I would completely agree with both removal and the reason... but... I disagree with S Marshal's contention that "the editor removing it has made the value judgment that Sarah Palin was wrong." That may be S Marshal's impression, but it is not backed by any evidence. The editor does not even mention the issue of whether Palin was right or wrong (true/false, accurate/inaccurate, etc.)... he simply says she is an unreliable source. I agree with that ... Palin is a politician not a historian. And in a history related article, the reliable sources are historians... not politicians. What is important to understand is that the unreliability relates to who said it... not what was said. If some eminent historian had said the exact same words that Palin said (in case you don't remember, this relates to her saying that Revere "warned the British"), we would not have excluded it for being "wrong"... and we probably would have to include it as a minority opinion from an eminent and reliable historian. No, the material was not removed because Palin was "wrong", it was (correctly) removed because Palin is not an expert in history. I would argue that even if Palin had been right (and said Revere warned the colonists), we would not have included her statement in the Paul Revere article... and for the same reason... Palin is not a historian... and thus, not a reliable source on Paul Revere.
I raise this because it will help all of you understand why the various editors here disagree so strongly... now back to your regularly scheduled bickering. Blueboar (talk) 21:21, 28 July 2011 (UTC)

And we can try for consensus again![edit]

I'm an eternal optimist (see also: fool), so here is:

--Tryptofish (talk) 21:29, 28 July 2011 (UTC)

"Once" implies a rigid order for evaluating material, which is inaccurate: Many things are rejected as UNDUE without bothering to figure out whether they're technically verifiable.
Also, RS is officially a guideline, not a policy, so "other policies such as" is misleading. WhatamIdoing (talk) 22:29, 28 July 2011 (UTC)
Agree with WhatamI's analysis... but am ok with this in concept. Blueboar (talk) 22:39, 28 July 2011 (UTC)
Would we prefer: (1) "other policies and guidelines", or (2) delete " and appropriate utilization of sources"? Either way works fine for me. And how about "When verifiability can be established,...:? --Tryptofish (talk) 23:05, 28 July 2011 (UTC)
I think 1) works best, and I would prefer "When verifiability is established,...". But the latter's a nit, and I can accept the two other versions without reservation. --Nuujinn (talk) 00:04, 29 July 2011 (UTC)
I think it would be good to say/include the broader term "other considerations". North8000 (talk) 00:07, 29 July 2011 (UTC)
Pending any future howls of complaint comments, any of those would be fine with me! Face-smile.svg --Tryptofish (talk) 00:44, 29 July 2011 (UTC)
So my idea would be to change "policies" to "considerations" in the last sentence. . Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 01:12, 29 July 2011 (UTC)
I think that would weaken the sentence. Considerations is a bit to vague for my tastes--our actions are informed first by policies, then by guidelines. Considerations might include essays and personal beliefs. --Nuujinn (talk) 01:40, 29 July 2011 (UTC)
What actual problem is this version intended to fix? It seems to satisfy only those who didn't want the policy changed in the first place, so why alter the policy?—S Marshall T/C 09:22, 29 July 2011 (UTC)
Compared to what the page says now, it is intended as an attempt to clarify "not truth"—see also the new thread that started below. But of course, you know that. It's a compromise. For those who consider compromise to be unacceptable, the US Congress is that-a-way. Face-smile.svg --Tryptofish (talk) 16:55, 29 July 2011 (UTC)

Updated, per the comments so far:

--Tryptofish (talk) 16:59, 29 July 2011 (UTC)

  Unscintillating (talk) 02:35, 30 July 2011 (UTC)

  • Unscintillating's version seems circular to me. If we define "truth" as that which appears in reliable sources, then the threshold for inclusion is truth. See?

    Tryptofish's seems to add words without addressing any of the problems.—S Marshall T/C 08:36, 30 July 2011 (UTC)

This exchanges of drafts is friendly and constructive, but may not be making progress by not dealing directly with the core issue(s) Maybe S Marshall and I and anyone else in the "we need real change" camp should put our heads together and state the gist of what we are looking for in a compromise....the compromise in the framework of leaving the first sentence as-is and then adding a second sentence or two after it. Then we could state it here and see who is fundamentally for, negotiable and against it. I think that this would help clarify the situation. If there are folks who are not willing to take a step towards the middle ground, I respect that, but then will know that and recognize that they will support any draft that does so. North8000 (talk) 14:03, 30 July 2011 (UTC)
Sounds like a good plan. I would ask that you all include 3-4 links to discussions that got bogged down for a long time where you all feel that editors were arguing that something they believe was not true but verifiable should be included in an article, including that 10,000 word conversation, as that will help use understand whence you all come to this issue. --Nuujinn (talk) 14:21, 30 July 2011 (UTC)
(added later) Nuujinn, for various reasons (mostly because of how much I have said about it), I will give you the ~10,000-word-conversation-to-remove-one-false-word location (how to you link to ~10,000 words over months?) privately but not publicly. North8000 (talk) 16:29, 30 July 2011 (UTC)
That's fine, pop me an email with a link to the page start of the discussion, and I'll try to trace it out from there. I'll try to kept any comments about it general so as to not give away the actual discussion, and will not complain if you or an admin redacts any comments that seem untoward, in deference to your desire for privacy. --Nuujinn (talk) 16:45, 30 July 2011 (UTC)
Cool. Actually desire to not re-ignite a difficult situation where I have hopes of things going better there eventually. North8000 (talk) 16:53, 30 July 2011 (UTC)
Done. I was afraid I might get chided for guessing high, but now I checked and its over 14,000 words. North8000 (talk) 21:51, 30 July 2011 (UTC)
Yes, links to actual debates that centered on this issue will help. Blueboar (talk) 14:31, 30 July 2011 (UTC)
I, too, am happy to consider empirical evidence that would potentially make me reconsider, but pending that evidence, I have to oppose Unscintillating's version as, in effect, deprecating "not truth" to an extent that does not have community consensus. And I want to point out—strongly!—to the big change camp that we have another alternative, which is to leave the page exactly as it is. That would be fine with me, and would marginally reflect the consensus of the community. Don't waste time and effort trying to get something that you will not get. --Tryptofish (talk) 16:54, 30 July 2011 (UTC)
In response to reasonable and substantial mis-readings by both S Marshall and Tryptofish, I have changed the words "Not truth" to "The phrase 'not truth' ".  I hope this clarifies that there is no big change or the defining of "truth" being proposed here.  Unscintillating (talk) 17:14, 30 July 2011 (UTC)
Thanks, but that doesn't resolve my concerns, nor change my position. --Tryptofish (talk) 17:19, 30 July 2011 (UTC)
And your position is that there is a "big change camp"?  Unscintillating (talk) 17:49, 30 July 2011 (UTC)

Verifiable material may or may not be accurate, agree?[edit]

S Marshall argues to circular logic regarding truth in a proposal that removes "truth" from this policy within the limitation that "not truth" must remain.  North8000 argues to identifying core issues, when a core issue is that WT:V is (inappropriately IMO) entangled in "truth" arguments.  Do we agree that verifiable material may or may not be accurate?  Unscintillating (talk) 16:51, 30 July 2011 (UTC)

However well intentioned, this question strikes me as unlikely to get us anywhere. Verifiable information can, indeed, be inaccurate, as is the belief that the community is willing to remove or neutralize the phrase "not truth". --Tryptofish (talk) 16:57, 30 July 2011 (UTC)
For someone that agrees with the question, why talk against it?  Are you trying to obstruct consensus?  Obstructing consensus building is considered uncivil.  Unscintillating (talk) 17:14, 30 July 2011 (UTC)
No. --Tryptofish (talk) 17:19, 30 July 2011 (UTC)
"Verifiable" on Wikipedia means "reported in reliable sources". It's a given that normally reliable sources can be wrong, whether through honest error, being hoaxed or malicious lies. Therefore something can be verifiable but inaccurate.—S Marshall T/C 17:21, 30 July 2011 (UTC)
Yes, and I note that in the cases you cite, the reason we know that a reliable source was wrong is that the error was reported in, drum roll please, reliable sources. That's how we verify that an error occurred. Absent verification in reliable sources, there is simply no way to gauge the accuracy of statements in WP. Relying on our version of the Truth is OR. That's why we say verifiability, not truth. --Nuujinn (talk) 18:56, 30 July 2011 (UTC)
Sorry, but I'm not aware that sarcasm is a vector force in the force of reason.  If you look at 1930 Palm Island tragedy, you will see that reliable sources give both the name "Prior" and "Pryor".  No "reliable source" says that "Pryor" is wrong, but the fact that only the early references to the name use that spelling was enough is assign less WP:DUE weight to the spelling "Pryor".  A second source, Prior's nephew, has also testified in edit comments that "Pryor" is wrong.  So even though we can't repeat this assertion in the article, we have a fair degree of confidence in how to weight the choice between the spellings.  Unscintillating (talk) 19:31, 30 July 2011 (UTC)
Sorry, but I wasn't being sarcastic. My point is no matter how we slice it, we have to verify "that which is True" and "that which is not True" against reliable sources. Regarding Prior/Pryor, I don't see what your point is. We normally give more weight to later accounts in historical matters, so what's the problem? Changing the wording of V would make no difference in that case. --Nuujinn (talk) 20:37, 30 July 2011 (UTC)
Nuujinn, I think you're inadvertently making my point for me. Did you understand that I'd be perfectly happy to define "truth" in terms of reliable sources? But my answer earlier was in terms of what the policy says at the moment. At the moment the policy draws a distinction between what's sourced and what's true. It says "verifiability, not truth". Therefore, if the policy is written correctly, "verifiable" cannot possibly mean the same thing as "true", can it?—S Marshall T/C 21:06, 30 July 2011 (UTC)
We are going in circles again. Verifiability is not the same as Truth. Truth is based on belief... Verifiability is based on reliable sources. WP:V makes it clear that we do not even consider inclusion of material based on an editor's belief ... We do consider inclusion of material that is based on reliable sources (But note... the fact that we consider inclusion does not mean we guarantee inclusion... because there are other policies and guidelines that might tell us to reject it). Blueboar (talk) 22:14, 30 July 2011 (UTC)
You may believe that truth is based on belief, but I don't necessarily believe that. :)—S Marshall T/C 22:51, 30 July 2011 (UTC)
So somehow "drum roll please" was not sarcastic, and somehow capitalizing the word "truth" was not sarcastic.  What I'd really rather know though is: is it your position that both the spelling "Pryor" and the spelling "Prior" are without error, because no reliable source has identified one of them as erroneous?  Unscintillating (talk) 22:16, 30 July 2011 (UTC)
I have a different sense of humor than you. Drum roll please, because no matter how we slice it, discussions of Truth here wind up as discussions of verifiability, and we've been through that particular loop, I don't know, a couple of dozen times the last few months. "T"ruth, because philosophically I fall somewhere between the pragmatists (Pierce in particular) and the european phenomenologists (Husserl, Ingarden, Merleau-Ponty) and Wittgenstein. I believe in little "t" truth, where truth is something that helps solve a problem in a given context. Big "T" truth is the way most people use it, as in "A is true in all cases all the time". As I walk, the earth is usually flat. For an engineer building a road through a mountain, it's not. From space, it appears as a disc. For astronomy, it's the spheroid. So, for me, the sky is WP:BLUE and the sky is WP:NOTBLUE, depending on the circumstances and context. In regard to Prior/Pryor, we have conflicting sources, so we document the difference, and to me, it doesn't matter which it the truth. So that article looks fine to me. And S Marshall, verifiable and true are not synonyms, as Blueboar aptly put it. --Nuujinn (talk) 22:57, 30 July 2011 (UTC)

I began this section by proposing that this overall discussion was inappropriately entangled in "truth" arguments.  I asked what I thought was an easy question, which question is the title of this subsection.  While consensus was not achieved, sufficient consensus was found to draw the conclusion that Wikipedia does not strive for accuracy, at least not as a part of WP:V.  Regarding the question posed, most editors agreed that verifiable material may or may not be accurate, but Nuujinn required a reliable source to tell him/her that one of the spellings ("Pryor", "Prior") is inaccurate.  So either by Nuujinn's ("accuracy is determined by sourcing that may or may not exist") or by most editor's ("some verifiable things are inaccurate") we have a consensus that Wikipedia does not strive, at least as a function of verifiability, for accuracy.  Unscintillating (talk) 22:02, 31 July 2011 (UTC)

Returning to the previous discussion[edit]

Returning to the previous discussion, there are two possibilities that look reasonably viable to me:


I like them both. Either one would be fine with me. --Tryptofish (talk) 20:27, 31 July 2011 (UTC)

Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth[edit]

This text is in bold and on the lead of this page. I am very surprised to see that truth is not important. Why do we weigh verifiablity higher than truth? Also forgive me for using this page as 'talk' but I couldn't find an appropriate place to post this question. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Averagejoedev (talkcontribs) 08:59, 29 July 2011 (UTC)

Because it is, in general, impossible to figure out truth, and very hard to even approximate it. Wikipedia editors are only very rarely experts in all fields they edit in. So we leave the figuring to the experts, and only report their results. We don't do original research (or at least not in the confines of Wikipedia - many editors are indeed experts in some field, and publish their original research elsewhere). --Stephan Schulz (talk) 09:10, 29 July 2011 (UTC)
Yep, it's not that we don't care about truth, it's that it's not a useful way to settle arguments. If two people have different ideas about what's true (which happens very very often here), "write what's true" gets us nowhere. But if the criterion is "can you cite a reliable source for that claim?", that usually helps us get past the impasse. --GenericBob (talk) 09:19, 29 July 2011 (UTC)
As can be probably be guessed I am not a fan of this blind faith in reliable sources. I don't believe it is necessarily impossible to find the truth, we find empirical truths all the time. To use a fictional example. Person A might find 2 sources(however unlikely) stating that the moon is made of cheese, while Person B, has closely examined a piece of ground from the moon, brought back during an Apollo mission. Wikipedia would favour Person A over Person B. Regardless of whether or not Person A's postulate is true?.. I know this is very exagerrated but there is a valid point here. This leaves room for many errors, I don't think truth is a popoularity contest, which is what Wikipedia in a way has made it to be. Is there any wikipedia forum for debate about this?Averagejoedev (talk) 10:56, 29 July 2011 (UTC)
Wikipedia would favour Person A over Person B. Only if A referenced more reliable sources than B. In the case of the composition of the moon, we would favor scientific sources over say random web pages, blogs, newspaper interviews, or books published by general presses. And you're in an appropriate venue to discuss this, so fire away. To me, the fundamental issue is this: we have disagreements about what is true, and to decide whether A or B has the truth in hand, we'd have to turn to reliable sources. We must avoid the trap of "this source is more reliable because it tells the truth". I've never been to the moon, so I have to base my decision about it's composition on the work of others, so we pick what we as a community feel are the best kinds of sources for the topic, and report what those say. Works pretty well, but we're not perfect. --Nuujinn (talk) 11:08, 29 July 2011 (UTC)
Also note that most editors are anonymous and even if they make claims about themselves, we don't have a system to check their identity or trustworthiness. Anybody can claim to be a subject expert or have personal knowledge that something is the absolute truth while all the published sources got it wrong. Experience indicates that the claims by such editors often sound rather unlikely to be true. See also Wikipedia:Fringe theories. PrimeHunter (talk) 12:34, 29 July 2011 (UTC)
By the way, Wikipedia actually has an article called The Moon is made of green cheese. PrimeHunter (talk) 12:38, 29 July 2011 (UTC)
I'll grant that there may occasionally be truths which are hard to cite and yet generally accepted. In theory, somebody could challenge that content if it appeared in a WP article. In practice, most editors have better things to do with their time, and people who make jerks of themselves by abusing process don't get a warm welcome here. Against that, we most definitely do have plenty of crackpots who are utterly convinced of false "truths", and some outright liars; I'm yet to see any suggestions for how we'd deal with the resulting content disputes, other than by calling for sources.
One thing that sometimes confuses these discussions is a misunderstanding about what qualifies as a RS. Our guidelines state that a source should have certain characteristics to qualify as reliable (editorial oversight, etc etc); from this, some folk assume that any source having those characteristics is reliable. This is a fallacy - "All dogs are mammals, therefore all mammals are dogs." When a "reliable source" makes a claim that's demonstrably false, that's a pretty good sign that maybe it's not reliable on this topic, even if it has editorial oversight yada yada. --GenericBob (talk) 00:56, 30 July 2011 (UTC)
  • It's important to note that the views expressed so confidently by Nuujinn, PrimeHunter and GenericBob represent about 50% of Wikipedians, according to the last poll. The other 50% would like that first sentence changed.—S Marshall T/C 12:57, 29 July 2011 (UTC)
Many editors would like the sentence changed but don't agree what it should be changed to. And it doesn't imply they disagree with the basic views expressed here. I think nearly all regular editors (who have experienced what unsourced nonsense is often added to articles) basically agree that Wikipedia content should be based on published reliable sources and not what editors claim to be The Truth. Some editors would like to add their own alleged knowledge without sources (even I have been tempted to do that), but that doesn't mean they think all other editors should be allowed to do it. PrimeHunter (talk) 15:07, 29 July 2011 (UTC)
For the record, I'm actually not a big fan of that first sentence; I see what it's trying to communicate but I don't think it does so very well. I would prefer something along the lines of "we strive for truth, and we use reliable sources as the best available arbiter of truth". My response above was an attempt to clarify the intent, not an endorsement of the wording. --GenericBob (talk) 00:33, 30 July 2011 (UTC)
Averagejoe, you might like to read WP:Verifiability, not truth. I think it will address your concerns.
In the meantime, if you find a real editor at a real article who thinks that this policy actually says that they should include information that is verifiably false as if it were verifiably accurate—rather than saying what it does, which is that you may only include information that is verifiable, no matter what, and that this verifiable-information-only rule applies even if you personally are 100% certain that the unverifiable information is True™—then please let me know. S Marshall and others have repeatedly asserted that editors might make bad choices in articles because of this, but they've yet to show me one single diff of anyone actually doing so. WhatamIdoing (talk) 15:51, 29 July 2011 (UTC)
What actually happens is that the persons who want to keep false sourced information in say that it is illegitimate to discuss accuracy. North8000 (talk) 15:55, 29 July 2011 (UTC)
Which is when you should stop arguing about accuracy, and shift the discussion to Due Weight ... saying that even if the information were accurate, it should not be included because mentioning it gives undue weight to an extreme minority opinion. (My experience is, if you can not justify exclusion on due weight grounds, it probably means that the "falseness" of the information is not be as clear cut as you think, and the material should be included in some form anyway.) Blueboar (talk) 00:50, 30 July 2011 (UTC)
If I show you such a diff, WhatamIdoing, will you then change your position and support my proposed changes to policy?—S Marshall T/C 17:27, 29 July 2011 (UTC)
It would certainly help.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 23:02, 30 July 2011 (UTC)
A pattern of such comments, especially if they were not easily resolved through a short discussion, would convince me that we had a real problem. It might not convince me that changing this phrase was a proportionate or appropriate response to the problem. I've not seen any data to support the assertion that the phrase is actually being misunderstood by real editors working on real articles. Even a single example at a real article would convince me that the problem doesn't exist entirely between the ears of a couple of editors who believe they somehow know the Truth™ about the phrase's effect on Wikipedia, and that nobody else's positive experience with the phrase is valid.
However, I buy no pigs in pokes: I will not make any firm commitment to support any past or future proposal on the basis of data that is as yet unseen, and for all I have been able to tell, actually non-existent. WhatamIdoing (talk) 23:15, 30 July 2011 (UTC)
Okay. I understand from what you say that if I produced such a diff, your response would be to quibble the diff, or argue for a change that didn't involve altering the "not truth" wording; it would be another five thousand words without anyone changing their position, so I'm not anxious to go down that road.—S Marshall T/C 23:20, 30 July 2011 (UTC)
Well, if that's the attitude, then I'm just completely opposed to any changes. My suspicion all along has been what WhatamIdoing said above, that this "exist[s] entirely between the ears of a couple of editors who believe they somehow know the Truth™ about the phrase's effect on Wikipedia", and you're giving that suspicion credence with that reply.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 23:29, 30 July 2011 (UTC)
That's a terrible insult to people who are investing their time in a good faith effort to try to make things better, even if you disagree. North8000 (talk) 23:35, 30 July 2011 (UTC)
(edit conflict)"The attitude" is that chasing down diffs is work, and I'm not willing to do it without some evidence that there could be a payoff in terms of a change of position from some of you. Particularly when editors keep producing this sardonic "The Truth™" business, with capital letter and trademark sign: doesn't imply that you're engaging in serious dialogue, does it?—S Marshall T/C 23:39, 30 July 2011 (UTC)
That's fine with me: Wikipedia is a WP:VOLUNTEER project. If you don't want to do this, then I'm not going to force you.
It happens that there are some consequences to your choice: I will believe what I've actually seen over what someone alleges to possibly exist. My data set right now gives me no reason to worry about this phrase harming Wikipedia, and significant reasons to believe it is helpful. If you want to change my data set, then you're free to do so. If you want me to make choices based on my current data set, then that's okay with me, too. It's entirely your choice.
BTW, the fact that you expect finding a single example of a real problem to require a significant amount of bother is now part of my data set: you apparently haven't seen this alleged problem often enough or recently enough to be able to easily lay your hands on a single example. WhatamIdoing (talk) 23:56, 30 July 2011 (UTC)
I think that S Marshall was looking for some sign that the diff would be looked at with an open mind regarding whether it supported their assertion and that it was not just this: User:North8000/Page2. North8000 (talk) 00:08, 31 July 2011 (UTC)
It's obvious that the assumption of a lack of faith starts with your own side. This (to provide some evidence) has been asked repeatedly. I'm certainly willing to consider changing my view, but as WhatamI is saying above, there's basically no evidence being offered to show that there is a significant issue. Call it "a terrible insult" if you'd like, but the offer to provide a diff was obviously never a serious, good faith offer to move the debate forward to begin with. If all that yourself and Marshall are willing to do is continue to spin the wheels on this discussion, then my own position is going to simply be that there's nothing substantive being said here and as a consequence I'm simply going to continue to oppose any changes to the policy. Either we actually debate the issue or we don't. It's up to you guys.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 00:17, 31 July 2011 (UTC)
Open mind, yes. So open that my brains fall out, no.
I would be happy to have more data, especially if that new information is different from what I already know. However, the production of more data (no matter which "side" that information might support) will not completely erase the previous data. WhatamIdoing (talk) 01:14, 31 July 2011 (UTC)

OK, here's one that I think you will stipulate that we could each find thousands of, (I'll go find some if you say not) where some persons are saying the statement is false/inaccurate, and the other(s) is/ are saying:

  • "Revert deletion of sourced material"
  • "Please stop your behavior of deleting sourced material"
  • "Please do not delete sourced material"
  • "Please do not revert my addition of sourced material"
  • "It is not our job to decide what goes in, our job is to just put in what sources say"

Each of these are in essence (in this context) saying that being sourced (let's stipulate wp:rs'd) is a sufficient condition to force the material to go in. And that the purported falseness of the statement can't be discussed and is irrelevant in that question at hand. And keep in mind that the question is whether or not to include the statement.

For simplicity, let's use the cases where the material is not weighing in on one side of a debate (in which case wp:npov would kick in and complicate the examples)

Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 01:48, 31 July 2011 (UTC)

Here are some more:
These archives are sprinkled with examples of the problem(s), including as I recall the case of one man whose career was destroyed, but there are no examples of the need to keep the first sentence unchanged.  In addition, here is a case in which WP:V was unusable for the purpose for which it is touted.  The problem here was that the other two editors understood that the editor knew perfectly well that the publication schedule had changed from three to two times per year, so quoting "not truth" to him would have been unconstructive.  Unscintillating (talk) 04:32, 31 July 2011 (UTC)
  • Haha, User:North8000/Page2 is brilliant. That's exactly what I meant.—S Marshall T/C 09:27, 31 July 2011 (UTC)
    Ah, OK, I see what you guys are trying to say now. Sorry, but I don't think that trying to preemptively prevent people with a POV from editing is a good idea, and I certainly don't think that the function of this policy is to prevent what you're bringing up here. You're complaint is more about neutrality than anything to do with verifiability. In my opinion this criticism has very little to do with this policy (WP:V does overlap slightly with WP:NPOV, but no policy stands completely on it's own). Anyway, considering that North's view is that "An effective and common way to win a battle in Wikipedia is get it to where the person with the opposing viewpoint has to spend so much time that they throw up their hands and leave.", I'm now wondering if a topic ban is in order here. I was willing to assume good faith, but all of this is beginning to strike me as being disruptive.
    — V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 12:52, 31 July 2011 (UTC)
  • If you'd like to open up the conduct of all concerned to scrutiny over who's being disruptive, be my guest. In fact, please do, I'd like you to put your money where your mouth is. I'm tired of being called "disruptive" for continuing a discussion on a policy talk page where there's genuinely no consensus about the wording.—S Marshall T/C 15:34, 31 July 2011 (UTC)
  • IMO S Marshall put it too mildly. In an extensive RFC, about half of everybody said they want to totally remove "not truth". Now a few folks from the "we need a change" camp are investing their time trying to work out a compromise in this situation that would not otherwise be resolved. And you say: "I'm now wondering if a topic ban is in order here". What a terrible and out of line thing to say ! ! ! Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 15:48, 31 July 2011 (UTC)

"Not Truth" has caused big problems on Wikipeida, but they are a bit hidden from view. Things go wrong when there exists a faction that has a "Not Truth" mentalitity in the real world and they come to Wikipedia to edit according to their POV. This is a problem in the case of climate change. In the CC arbCom case things went wrong, because ArbCom did not want to accept as a relevant fact that a real world problem exists (they only foucus on editor behavior). A topic like climate change is not comparable to some politics topic, where the truth doesn't matter that much anyway. Considering how the US media works, you have to take serious that for some people, Wikipedia is just another media outlet which they use for their own ends.

Addressing this sort of a problem with the present rules would lead to the chronic use of WP:UNDUE to revert. But doing that led to a topic ban for User:KimDabelsteinPetersen, because that very chronic use of WP:UNDO was seen to be rather aggressive. ArbCom did not want to consider the content issues, not even the fact that the real world media is perverted by detractors.

Now, climate change is not the only example of such problems. In case of BLPs, the reason why we have the BLP policy, is partially due to this problem with Not Truth. Without the BLP policy, there wouldn't be enough emphasis on the truth on what many Wikipedians feel is an important issue. So a new policy was made that now explicitely says that truth does matter there. So, perhaps another way to address the Not Truth issue would be for a Science analogue of BLP, with its own noticeboard... Count Iblis (talk) 16:07, 31 July 2011 (UTC)

"A figure of speech is the use of a word or words diverging from its usual meaning."  "...clarity may also suffer from their use, as any figure of speech introduces an ambiguity between literal and figurative interpretation."  My point in repeating this text from Figure of speech is that I find the previous post to be unclear in its references to the phrase "not truth", which phrase is an ambiguous figure of speech.  It is not clear to me how it relates to WT:V.  If this is supposed to be an example of where the phrase "not truth" was used to push back against POV pushers, please provide diffs.  Alternately, was this intended to be an example of adding gobbledygook based on verifiable sources and defending such additions on the grounds that they need not be "truth"?  If so, please provide diffs.  Thanks, Unscintillating (talk) 20:44, 31 July 2011 (UTC)

Arbitrary break[edit]

I do not think anyone is required to justify leaving a policy statement as it has been for a very long time. People have said that there's no consensus for leaving "not truth" in place, and while that may be true, I don't believe it's relevant. Where there is no consensus, we leave things as they are. If you want to remove "not truth", I believe that you have to achieve consensus that it needs to be removed. So far, that hasn't happened. Now some of us have done our level best to try to address the concerns of people who want to make accuracy a clearer priority, and it seems to me that a small number of editors are refusing to work in that direction, insisting that the problem is "not truth", and that is causing problems. The discussions I have looked at thus far seem to be mostly POV issues, which are admittedly difficult to deal with, but I don't think changing V will help those issues. And insisting on a tack for which there is no consensus is not helpful. --Nuujinn (talk) 21:17, 31 July 2011 (UTC)

Not sure if you were referring to my post, but it essentially said that the large amount of folks (about 1/2)from the RFC who want complete removal of "not truth" validates efforts to seek a compromise change that does not remove those two words. North8000 (talk) 21:28, 31 July 2011 (UTC)
(ec)WP:Consensus states, "This page documents an English Wikipedia policy, a widely accepted standard that all editors should normally follow."  And, "When editors cannot reach agreement by editing, the process of finding a consensus is continued by discussion on the relevant talk pages."  Unscintillating (talk) 22:44, 31 July 2011 (UTC)
@North8000, I did not mean you, as you are engaged in seeking exactly the kind of compromise we need on this issue, and I welcome your input on this issue, as it represents forward movement greatly needed at this junction. BTW, I'm still thinking about the issue in the email you sent, I'm not sure what the solution is to that kind of mess.
@Unscintillating, that policy links to an essay containing a section you might consider reading. We've been going over the "not truth" issues for months now, and I can't even remember what the horse looked like. --Nuujinn (talk) 00:22, 1 August 2011 (UTC)
The previous post (PP) seems pretty much off-topic, there were no horses, we are moving forward in our compromise discussion to clarify the phrase "not truth", and the previous poster has no text proposals to add to the discussion.  We have seen recent edits called "humor" continue after I indicated that the material was sarcastic and inappropriate.  The PP here seems to be in specific defiance of WP:Consensus policy.  The editorial source of this conflict may be that some of us have had to repeatedly explain that there is no consensus to keep the first sentence unchanged.  I actually thought that this discussion would take a break, so I was not a part of keeping this discussion alive after the RfCs.  This does not mean that I don't appreciate the efforts of those who continued to work, I do appreciate those efforts.  Unscintillating (talk) 02:10, 1 August 2011 (UTC)

I think there are a lot of Wikipedia editors who don't fully understand the intended meaning of the WP:V policy (for example, the original poster in this thread). I also think when editors do learn the intended meaning behind the WP:V policy, they are a little surprised.. maybe it's more natural to assume that Wikipedia ultimately favours "Truth" above all else. I think the quicker we teach editors the real meaning (i.e. verifiability is "more important" than Truth, whatever that is), the better.

So I'm concerned that this discussion occassionally (often?) veers away from a discussion about clarifying the policy, and instead appears to focus on the actual meaning of the policy. To me, the "not truth" phrase is a wake up call to editors who don't have a complete understanding of Wikipedia's policies and guidelines. It occassionally ellicits a surprised reaction, such as the one by the original poster of this thread; and to me, this is evidence that the opening sentence is doing its job well. The intended meaning of the policy is a little unexpected - and that's not a reason to change it! Mlm42 (talk) 22:29, 31 July 2011 (UTC)

Well said. Blueboar (talk) 00:02, 1 August 2011 (UTC)
Hear hear! --Nuujinn (talk) 00:22, 1 August 2011 (UTC)

I think that the main point of the "leave as-is" folks is the goal and intended effect of "not truth" which is to reinforce the core tenet of wp:ver. Including/especially that "truth" is never a substitute for verifiability. And I think that the "change needed" folks fully understand that and fully understand with and agree with the importance of that goal. and are 100% in favor of unequivocal enforcement verifiability as a requirement for inclusion.

I think that the main point of the "change needed" folks is that there are substantial negative unintended consequences from that wording as-is, consequences that are unrelated to the core tenet of wp:ver. I believe that the "leave as is" folks do not understand what the "change needed" folks have been trying to communicate. Not what these unintended effects are, not their prevalence, and not that we are 100% in agreement with the second half of the previous paragraph. Am I right or wrong on this? North8000 (talk) 01:01, 1 August 2011 (UTC)

  • (edit conflict)It's certainly easy to mistake the intended meaning of the policy. For it to mean what you think it means, it ought to say: "You can't add things you can't source, regardless of whether or not you think they're true." That needs clarifying, because it isn't precisely what it says. But there's another issue as well, which is that significant numbers of editors think the encyclopaedia does aim to tell the truth. (This is spelt "The Truth™" by those who wish to ridicule us, in quite a successful trolling tactic because it does seriously get on my nerves.)

    The basic problem here is that the policy thinks truth is a democracy—that you have to be inclusive and tolerant of other people's views, which might also be "the truth". So you're supposed to let them put their sourced theories into the article, as if fringe theories merit equal time, or as if you could vote to change the truth. This is the Indiana Pi Bill mentality, or Teach the Controversy. (Read them.)

    Any mathematician or logician will tell you, there's nothing democratic about truth. In those fields where truth has a clear and simple meaning, any compromise between the right answer and a wrong answer is a different kind of wrong answer. And in those fields where truth has multiple values or meanings, it's unhelpful to exclude it. Editors here have struggled even to define truth in a way that (a) isn't circular and (b) doesn't make the policy meaningless. A "reliable source" is chosen based on criteria that make it likely to be true. Every definition of "reliable" that we have is selected to make the contents more accurate, more trustworthy, and other synonyms for "true".

    But the key point here is that the purpose of an encyclopaedia—the whole point of what we're doing on Wikipedia—is to inform and educate. To help intelligent and curious people to learn about fields outside their normal area of knowledge. Which means we need to tell them, yes, the truth. Which means presenting them with the mainstream academic consensus in simple declarative sentences. This policy ought to help editors exclude the lunatic fringe except from articles about the fringe view, but it doesn't: as written, it gives the lunatic fringe a voice and a platform on Wikipedia. What the policy ought to do is define "verifiability", without reference to truth at all, and then define the language that's to be used. The mainstream academic or scientific consensus in the simple declarative ("species form by means of evolution") and fringe views in arms-length reportative language ("some creationists believe that species are best explained in terms of baraminology").

    Unfortunately, we're stuck. There are roughly equal numbers of editors active in the debate on both sides, but the side with the current wording enjoys a first-mover advantage here. This phrase "not truth" was added by Slimvirgin in what seems to have been an undiscussed stealth edit in 2005, and now can't be changed because editors are relying heavily on the point that on Wikipedia, a lack of consensus leads to stagnation.—S Marshall T/C 01:11, 1 August 2011 (UTC)

I smiled when you mentioned mathematicians, because I am one. And I am very happy that Wikipedia's policies de-emphasize the notion of "Truth" (sorry if capitalizing annoys you), because in the real world (unlike the mathematical one), the concept of truth is slippery. And contrary to what you said, I think there is an element of democracy to it. This is a reason to avoid talking about truth in our policies.
Also, kudos to SlimVirgin for making such an iconic "undiscussed stealth edit"! do you have the diff? Mlm42 (talk) 02:20, 1 August 2011 (UTC)
As far as I can track it down, the original diff was this one (made to a draft of WP:NOR, subsequently moved to WP:NOR by SL Rubenstein and then to WP:V by Uncle G). The phrase was moved to the lede by SlimVirgin in August 2005, again without any prior discussion that I could locate. Subsequent edits have stripped it of its original context and placed it as the first sentence of the policy. In its original context the phrase is much less objectionable, although I still don't like it at all.

I agree with you when you say "this is a reason to avoid talking about truth in our policies", and this has always been my intention. I want to take out the mentions of truth. I want the first sentence of this policy to read, very simply, "A minimum criterion for inclusion on Wikipedia is verifiability".—S Marshall T/C 09:31, 1 August 2011 (UTC)

I would like to request that folks read my post above and answer my question. And keep in mind that "do not understand" could be a communication fault of the "change needed" folks, so it is not a loaded question. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 01:21, 1 August 2011 (UTC)

North8000, your comments (except for the last sentence that starts, 'Not what...') make perfect sense, nothing has changed here, the only puzzle is why this is not easily accepted by all.  Unscintillating (talk) 03:17, 1 August 2011 (UTC)

@S Marshall, would you care to explain WTF "an undiscussed stealth edit" is? And I simply reject your assertion that our mission should be "presenting [the public] with the mainstream academic consensus in simple declarative sentences" as that is simply too narrow. We're an encyclopedia, so we are not limited to academic sources.
@North8000, hard to say, as it is difficult to ascertain what others are thinking. We won't complete WP today, either in article space or in policy, and I'm a fan of not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. But I would also suggest that sometime well meaning, intelligent, informed people disagree, and in those cases, compromise is the best path. Iterative improvement are a fine goal, and so long as we're moving forward, I'm in. See you all tomorrow, --Nuujinn (talk) 01:28, 1 August 2011 (UTC)

@Mlm42 What would help is if you could translate phrases like "iconic" and "not truth whatever it is" into an operational definition or paraphrase of the phrase "not truth" as intended by the first sentence of WP:V.  Here is my own attempt: "The phrase 'not truth' refers to material that is not verifiable."  Unscintillating (talk) 03:17, 1 August 2011 (UTC)

@Nuujinn: An "undiscussed edit" is an edit that takes place without discussion; a "stealth edit" is an edit that makes a significant change to the wording with a misleading or nonexistent edit summary. I provided what I think was the original diff to Mlm42 above. But let's be clear about what I said: the phrase "what seems to have been" is an important qualifier. What I said was that I have been unable to locate any discussion taking place about that edit before it was made.—S Marshall T/C 09:31, 1 August 2011 (UTC)

I think I have a sentence that crystallizes things in an area where we may not have successfully communicated. Because of the "not truth" wording, wp:ver is pervasively mis-quoted as weighing in on the INCLUSION side for false & questionable information. That is one (and a big one) of the unintended consequences that we seek to reduce. North8000 (talk) 11:23, 1 August 2011 (UTC)

I don't think anyone disagrees that the "not truth" wording is indeed very often quoted as weighing in on the inclusion side in debates about whether to include potentially false or questionable information. Where we disagree is whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. I think it is a good thing. Per WP:NPOV, when there is debate over whether to include verifiable information or not, we should err on the side of inclusion rather than exclusion. This is not an unintended consequence ... It think the prhase was absolutely INTENDED to be interpreted this way.
That said, what we need to make clearer is that this interpretation does not guarantee or require inclusion (because there are a lot of other policies and guidelines, in addition to wp:v, that have to be met)... And this interpretation does not address HOW we include (for example, it does not address the question of whether to include the information as a statement of fact or as an attributed statement of opinion). Blueboar (talk) 16:48, 1 August 2011 (UTC)
Where does that come from? It is not anywhere in wp:ver except hinted at by those two words which were added by one person without discussion; certainly that can't be taken as a process to change wp:ver to weigh in on the inclusion side of false/questionable/challenged sourced information? North8000 (talk) 17:13, 1 August 2011 (UTC)
It comes from understanding how wp:v, wp:nor, wp:npov, wp:fringe, wp:rs and a host of other policies and guidelines all work together, and from countless discussions here on this talk page. There is no need to change wp:ver to weigh in on the inclusion side... it already does that (indeed the fact that it does is supported by the fact that you are complaining about it). And this interpretation is expressly supported by both wp:npov, and wp:fringe... both of which also tell how and and under what circumstances verifiable (but arguably inaccurate) minority concepts, theories, ideas, statements etc. should be included. Blueboar (talk) 17:49, 1 August 2011 (UTC)
Blueboar, respectfully, that sounds like a vague barrage which does not answer my question, not that you have any obligation to do so. You basically asserted that it is the INTENTION of wp:ver to weigh in on the side of INCLUSION of material which is alleged to be false but which is sourced. I believe that that is a minority interpretation, but wither way, where (except the 2 disputed words) in wp:ver does it say or imply that?
With respect to this, wp:npov and wp;fringe become operative when there is material which specifically weighs in on one or the other side of such a question. Those are special cases which I am not talking about; I am talking about the other very common situations which are neither of those. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 00:32, 2 August 2011 (UTC)
I think there's a point of agreement between Blueboar and me, at least: how to report differing viewpoints. I think that what Blueboar and I are coming to is that the mainstream academic or scientific view gets the simple indicative, and alternatives get reported speech: thus History of the Earth, giving the mainstream view, uses the simple indicative, saying "[the Earth was formed] by accretion from the solar nebula 4.54 billion years ago", but Young Earth creationism, giving a fringe view, uses reported speech, saying "Young Earth creationists believe that the Earth is "young", on the order of 6,000 to 10,000 years old." That's right, and I do think it's a relevant aspect of verifiability.

We'll make further progress when we've agreed how to document our current practice on whether to include the fringe view at all. Mainstream articles, such as History of the Earth, do not mention the fringe view at all, and my position is that this is correct. Editors should not be permitted to introduce creationist ideas into History of the Earth. Their views belong in articles such as Young Earth creationism, and should be mentioned only to explain why they are wrong. Pleasingly, Young Earth creationism does that admirably.

I presume from the preceding conversation that editors subscribing to the inclusionist view of WP:V would say that History of the Earth should give a platform to the creationists. Is that right?—S Marshall T/C 00:53, 2 August 2011 (UTC)

(ec)But North8000, this policy must obtain traction in all areas of WP. You have brought up an example with me of a very controversially subject in which individuals were clearly using "not truth" to push a POV. My feeling is that our NPOV policy is the best defense against that kind of issue, not V. I think what Blueboar is getting at is that V is just concerned with the verification issues, and we rely on NPOV, NOR, and other policies and guideline to help inform discussion of what can be included and with what weight even is it is verifiable, regardless of a statement's truth value.
And in regard to the "stealth edit" without discussion, please take a look at this. It appears to me that the phrase was inserted into a draft discussion that involved a good number of editors over some months, and indeed stood in the draft as a named section for quite some time. Shortly after Slim Virgin added the phrase to V, brenneman asked about it on the talk page, and not a single editor responded until that section was archived (in the first archive for the page. That pattern does not seem stealthy to me, fwiw, but rather a reflection of a long process of achieving consensus. --Nuujinn (talk) 01:02, 2 August 2011 (UTC)
Nuujin, on the NPOV side you are leading me to a second subject which would be another big NPOV discussion. Basically, there is a gaping hole in wp:npov where the inserted material is put in for impression and leaves an impression but not specifically weighing in on a debated topic, it slips in under the NPOV radar. That's not for here. But the case that I sent you was special (unusual) case where the inserted material was clearly in error.
Now back to the main point. Wp:ver is widely mis-interpreted and mis-quoted as weighing in on the side of INCLUSION of false but sourced material. My point was that that shows it has wording problems, and Bluboar parried that by saying "that's what WP:ver says and is intended to say" but faded away on that when I asked them say where it says that. So I guess all of that wording used to bolster verifiability "better to have no info than wrong info" gets thrown in the trash when defending two words that get mis-interpreted as saying that wp:ver weighs in for INCLUSION of arguably inaccurate sourced information. 03:28, 2 August 2011 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by North8000 (talkcontribs)
If lots of reliable sources are putting forward this "false" information, then how do you know that it's really false? (If only a couple of them are putting it forward, then it's UNDUE, regardless of whether it is true or false.)
I've had a problem editor at a medical article removing information sourced to high-quality journal articles because she believes it all to be lies generated by surgeons trying to make a fast buck by mutilating patients. She knows it's all false... and she knows that her sources (some 'minority view' sources, and a bunch of really lousy blogs and websites) are all true. If Wikipedia is only permitted to include information that is both "true" and "verifiable", then how do we decide whose information about the efficacy of the surgery is the true information? WhatamIdoing (talk) 05:07, 2 August 2011 (UTC)
Your example has enough other angles that I think it is not one on the narrower question at hand. An example that better illustrates what I'm saying is where editors want to discuss exclusion of material because it is inaccurate, , and where no editor is claiming that the material is accurate, and folks mis-quote wp:ver as saying that such a conversation is not allowed / invalid. But the specific question is, should and does WP:VER weigh in in the INCLUSION side of questioned material, including via saying that accuracy can't be a part of the conversation. ? North8000 (talk) 10:25, 2 August 2011 (UTC)
There's only one angle that I'm concerned with: she says that she personally knows that verifiable information, backed by top-quality peer-reviewed sources, is entirely false and therefore she should get to delete or downplay anything vaguely positive, because Wikipedia should promote the Truth™. And you're actually (although inadvertantly) proposing to side with her, by saying that information must be both verifiable and True™ to be included as a plain old fact. WhatamIdoing (talk) 17:33, 2 August 2011 (UTC)
Of course accuracy/inaccuracy can be part of the conversation... after all, our content policies do not apply to talk pages. The same thing is true of material that is based on personal knowledge and OR. It is certainly appropriate to discuss it, and factor it into our thinking as background information. For one thing, the accuracy/inaccuracy of information is a very important consideration in determining how we phrase what policy says should be included (attributed opinion vs. unattributed fact). But that isn't a wp:ver issue. Blueboar (talk) 11:26, 2 August 2011 (UTC)
OK, NOW I agree with you. Except that if wp:ver is pervasively mis-quoted to say the opposite of what you just said, figuring out and fixing "why is that?" is a wp:ver issue. North8000 (talk) 11:32, 2 August 2011 (UTC)
"Why is that?" is easy to answer... people are wikilawyering (probably on both sides of the debate) in order to include/exclude some bit of information. They are taking one sentence from one policy page and quoting it out of context (both in terms of the context of the rest of the wp:ver policy page, and in terms of how the wp:ver policy page interacts with other policies and guidelines.)
The way to deal with such wikilawyering is not to change the policy, but to change the conversation... point out to the wikilawyer who is quoting "Verifiability, not truth" that there are other policies and guidelines that affect inclusion (especially how to include), and shift the conversation to discussing those policies and guidelines. Concede to the wikilawyer the argument that since the material in question passes wp:ver, we should include it... and shift the conversation to one that centers on how much weight to give the material (which would include giving it no weight at all), and how to phrase the material in the article. Point out to them that a discussion of the accuracy/inaccuracy (or, more correctly, the mainstream acceptance/non-acceptance) of what the source says is both important and appropriate when trying to figure out those questions. Blueboar (talk) 12:36, 2 August 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── "I do not think anyone is required to justify leaving a policy statement as it has been for a very long time." In practice you are still more or less forced to do this when the fraction of the people who want change is of the oder of 50%. The closer their view constitutes a new consensus, the more important it is for the people arguing for the status quo to actually show up and participate in the discussion. So, another sign that the consensus for the status quo is eroding is what we see on this talk page: very lengthy discussions every day.

To avoid people getting sick and tired of all these discussions, it's best to agree to fixed dates for important RFCs, so that people who don't have time can just watch the discussions from a distance. Count Iblis (talk) 14:56, 2 August 2011 (UTC)

  • @Blueboar: If we agree that "The way to deal with such wikilawyering is not to change the policy, but to change the conversation", then the policy could say absolutely anything and it wouldn't matter. The policy could say "You want the truth? You can't handle the truth!", or "Your God is a ham sandwich", or... well, it doesn't matter, because instead of interrogating the policy for its real meaning, we're changing the conversation and using a different policy instead. It seems like a counsel of despair to me.—S Marshall T/C 15:33, 2 August 2011 (UTC)
    • I don't think it's a counsel of despair. I think it's an acknowledgement that inclusion requires compliance with many policies, not just one—and that (all?) the problems North's claiming are about problems other than verifiability. WhatamIdoing (talk) 17:20, 2 August 2011 (UTC)
  • I think it's North's position that they arise from the misconceived phrase "not truth", though.—S Marshall T/C 17:52, 2 August 2011 (UTC)
Yes, the specific problem is the common misquoting of wp:ver doing damage to a situation. North8000 (talk) 19:21, 2 August 2011 (UTC)
But is it actually a common misquoting? I don't ever remember seeing a problem with this, and I have edited more than 20,000 unique pages (35 times as many as you). Now perhaps it happens (it's a big encyclopedia) and perhaps it happens on a couple of pages that you've been editing (clusters happen) but I have zero evidence that it is a "common" problem. WhatamIdoing (talk) 03:28, 5 August 2011 (UTC)
It is pervasive. Every time someone utters one of those chants (which I gave numerous examples of) which implies that wp:ver weighs in on the side of INCLUSION of false, sourced material, or those chants which essentially say that accuracy can't be allowed in a conversation about excluding false, sourced material. To me it is instructive that those advocating zero change could go to such a "parry all arguments" extreme as to claim that all unintended consequences of "not truth" are not only intended, but are actually implementations of wp:ver, presumably of a second version of wp:ver which the wp commoners do not have access to.  :-) Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 10:13, 5 August 2011 (UTC)
North8000, who would you say is advocating zero change? I see some of us saying that we oppose losing "verifiability, not truth", and some of us wanting to lose "truth". I see some editors, including yourself, who are willing to pursue alternate wording, and some who always return the conversation to removing "truth". The latter is, I think, at this point clearly disruptive, given the length of time the discussions have gone on and the various polls and rfcs. But I see no one who is pushing for no changes at all. --Nuujinn (talk) 10:38, 5 August 2011 (UTC)
To answer your question I must first clarify by drawing from the extensive conversations on this, and define the middle-ground-near-term-realistic-possibility change as some additional wording which mitigates the unintended effects of "not truth", specifically any effect other than reinforcing verifiability as a condition for inclusion. I can't say that I know of everybody who has recently weighed in flatly opposing to such a compromise change, but, respectfully the two folks that come to mind are Blueboar and WhatamIdoing. (SlimVirgin also likely if she were active here at the moment) And, of those folks, the one who consistently works to actively parry every point, argument and example supporting such a compromise change is Blueboar. This is said respectfully about folks who I have a lot of respect for who just happen to be firmly in the "opponent" camp on this particular issue. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 11:15, 5 August 2011 (UTC)
Given that I have actually proposed several potential changes in an attempt to resolve this issue, and have expressed actual support for some of the changes others have suggested, I don't think it is fair or accurate to put me in the "no changes at all" category. Yes, I have flatly opposed certain specific proposals... these are proposals that I think significantly change the meaning and intent of this policy. From the start, I have said that I have no problem adding language to clarify the meaning and intent of the policy... but I am not going to accept language that alters the meaning and intent of the policy. Blueboar (talk) 12:02, 5 August 2011 (UTC)
I guess the core structural question is whether you consider "not truth" to be merely a reinforcement of what is is stated elsewhere in wp:ver, or is it something more than that? If you could give a careful and straight answer to that question, I think it would actually clarify your position regarding this. North8000 (talk) 12:14, 5 August 2011 (UTC)
Its more than "merely" a reinforcement. I think the concept of "verifiability, not truth" lies at the very heart of the WP:V policy, and the rest of the policy is essentially a reinforcement and explanation of that phrase ... Furthermore, I also think the phrase "Verifiability, not truth" is both reinforced by and modified by what is stated in several other policies and guidelines (especially NPOV and NOR). To understand one, you must also understand the others. Blueboar (talk) 13:32, 5 August 2011 (UTC)
I think that our thread here has descended into vagueness. People could interpret zillions of things out of "verifiability not truth", most of them not listed in wp:ver, and this is a discussion about wp:ver. North8000 (talk) 14:20, 5 August 2011 (UTC)
You asked me for my views as to where the phrase stood in relation to the core structure of the policy... I gave you my view. It is my view that the phrase is the central concept of the policy. If we can explain it better... fine... but you seem to want to remove it rather than explain it. That isn't fine. Blueboar (talk) 14:40, 5 August 2011 (UTC)
Thanks for answering me. My comment wasn't a complaint, just a structural analysis of the response. North8000 (talk) 14:47, 5 August 2011 (UTC)
North, you have repeatedly stated that the phrase "Verifiability, not truth" is being "pervasively misquoted". This contention is not born out by the facts... I did a search of all the article talk pages where this phrase has been quoted in discussions (see here). If we look through these talk page discussions we find that, time after time, the phrase has actually been quoted appropriately and correctly (and not misquoted at all).
I am not saying that there are no situations where it has been misquoted... but I am saying that the misquotes are few and far between, and overwhelmingly outnumbered by situations where it has been quoted appropriately and correctly. Blueboar (talk) 11:50, 5 August 2011 (UTC)
I disagree, except with "outnumber" which is true but irrelevant. IMHO the huge use of wp:ver for it's intended purpose is not a valid argument against efforts to fix a problematic area in it. North8000 (talk) 11:59, 5 August 2011 (UTC)
It goes to the question of whether there really is a problematic area or not. If 999 out of 1000 discussions quote the phrase appropriately, I don't think there is a problem with the phrase. Blueboar (talk) 12:06, 5 August 2011 (UTC)
My wild-ass guess would be that wp:ver gets properly invoked hundreds of thousands times per year and that the damaging mis-guided non-policy chants that are derived from or aided by "not truth" get invoked tens of thousands of times per year. And the "tens of thousands" could get fixed without hurting the "hundreds of thousands" North8000 (talk) 14:12, 5 August 2011 (UTC)
We should not change core policy based on wild-ass guesses... The reality is that, when we look at the actual discussions that invoke the "Verifiability, not truth" mantra, we don't see any evidence that it is being misquoted "tens of thousands of time per year"... in fact it is hardly ever misquoted. At most it happens perhaps ten times in a year. In most of those cases, the reality is that the editor is deliberately mis-stating the policy. That is called "wikilayering", and is a behavioral issue, not a policy content issue. Blueboar (talk) 15:38, 5 August 2011 (UTC)
Well, IMHO my wild--assed guess might be off by a factor of 10, and yours might be off by a factor of 10,000. Looks like we disagree on even that. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 17:08, 5 August 2011 (UTC)
The difference is that, unlike you, I am not making a wild-assed guess... I am instead looking at the actual discussions where someone quoted the phrase "Verifiability, not truth". Blueboar (talk) 01:21, 6 August 2011 (UTC)

TLDR (apologies) but I have had a problem with "verifiability not truth" for a long time. The implication is that truth is not important to us when really it is, it's just harder to find. I think that we fall into the trap of living up to some people's idea about Wikipedia - it's unreliable. It should simply say something like "Content in Wikipedia should always be verifiable, allowing readers to use other reliable sources that support what has been written." violet/riga [talk] 15:17, 5 August 2011 (UTC)

Well, the discussions have been going on for literally months, and we've held rfcs and polls, with no consensus forming to remove the phrase "not truth", so a number of us regard it as a dead horse that's been beaten to death, buried, and returned to the dust whence it came. Please check the archives to get a feel for this. --Nuujinn (talk) 15:29, 5 August 2011 (UTC)
I'm very familiar with the length of time that this has gone on for. Doesn't that tell you how many people consider it to be a problem? violet/riga [talk] 15:34, 5 August 2011 (UTC)
With respect, no, because I see wide participation in each of the polls and RFCs, here and at the pump, and afterward each, a steady decline in involvement as the discussion drifts back to a few of the same people pushing against "not truth" despite the lack of consensus to remove it. Some of us are still hanging around, trying to address some of the legitimate concerns regarding wording and the issue of accuracy, but despite the efforts to address those concerns, the discussion keeps getting pulled back into the same loop, and this cycle has been repeating for many months now. --Nuujinn (talk) 01:13, 6 August 2011 (UTC)
I think that with some genuine middle ground this could get somewhat resolved. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 01:43, 6 August 2011 (UTC)
No, it can't. The people who don't like "not truth" have made it clear that they aren't happy with any phrasing that includes it. Since there's no consensus to remove the language that you don't like, all you can do is filibuster in the hopes of exhausting the patience of everyone who disagrees with you. Enough is enough. Put this to bed for a while. Revisit it again in 6 months if you like. Quale (talk) 01:57, 6 August 2011 (UTC)
WP:Consensus states, "This page documents an English Wikipedia policy, a widely accepted standard that all editors should normally follow."  And, "When editors cannot reach agreement by editing, the process of finding a consensus is continued by discussion on the relevant talk pages."  The previous poster might review the current status of the discussion—this is not a discussion about changing the first sentence, we are considering adding a new one or two sentences after the first sentence.  Unscintillating (talk) 02:19, 6 August 2011 (UTC)
Can I make it clear that my objection to "not truth" is nothing to do with the intention of this policy merely the particular choice of wording. The actual meaning can remain but "not truth" sends to wrong message. Perhaps it would be better to simply have it as verifiability, not "truth". violet/riga [talk] 15:49, 6 August 2011 (UTC)
I think your point is taken by at least some of us that have worked to correct the misuse/misunderstandings in the policy.  As a talk page we are currently working under an informal paradigm to work for correction without changing the text of the first sentence, which your proposal does.  The paradigm is to see if we can clarify the first sentence with additional sentences.  Please see North8000's "Part A" proposal below, which I believe is almost identical to your proposal.  Unscintillating (talk) 23:02, 6 August 2011 (UTC)

Then is a first change just to point to relevant policies?[edit]

What has emerged is that there is no agreement about the intended purpose of the two-word phrase "not truth" even by those who want to retain it in the policy.  This means that, and continuing to accept for the moment that we aren't changing or removing it, that we are currently unable to document what it means.  Several of us agree that "truth" and TruthTM need not be discussed in this policy, and as per a discussion above, there is consensus that verifiable material may or may not be accurate.  There has been little or no opposition to providing references to related policies in the lede.  Thus I propose:

  Unscintillating (talk) 19:18, 4 August 2011 (UTC)

The way I see it, what has emerged is that there is no consensus to change the current wording. Yet a small group of dissenters are trying to get their way by engaging in siege warfare to wear down and exhaust the patience of everyone else for whom this is not the single most important current issue on wikipedia. Leave it alone for now, and let everyone take a break. Quale (talk) 22:02, 4 August 2011 (UTC)
At this point, I pretty much agree with Quale. I kind of regret having gotten into this discussion at all. It seems to me that all of the endless talk is going nowhere very slowly. The existing policy works well. --Tryptofish (talk) 22:13, 4 August 2011 (UTC)
I am of the same mind, a break of 3-4 months is what I recommend. --Nuujinn (talk) 22:24, 4 August 2011 (UTC)
(edit conflict)x2 The way I see it is that there's fundamentally no consensus to keep the current wording, and the pro-change party are not "a small group of dissenters", but either a significant minority or actually a small majority. On Wikipedia, where there's no consensus about something, the status quo remains, which enables the tactical filibustering that we've seen on this page for the last several months. Other, similar discussions regularly appear, although not necessarily on this talk page. (See Wikipedia:Village pump (policy)#Wikipedia is not an encyclopedia, and it will never become one unless, which comes at the same point, although from a slightly different angle; the nominator finds himself saying in despair: "nobody in this Village pump section appears to really share my real concern: NO INFORMATION IS BETTER THAN FALSE INFORMATION." He is, by and large, talking to the same people we are, and I sympathise with his frustration.)

I'm pretty sure that we'll never convince people like Blueboar or WhatamIdoing, because they've invested too much effort in defending the current policy: there's no prospect that they will climb down. But we might just convince their audience.—S Marshall T/C 22:26, 4 August 2011 (UTC)

With apologies for what is about to sound snarky, I appreciate that you and others have a legitimate concern about accuracy, but what you and others convinced me is that this talk page is just a club for endless and pointless talk. --Tryptofish (talk) 22:31, 4 August 2011 (UTC)
Nobody's forcing you to participate, of course. You and Nuujinn are welcome to take a 3-4 month break if you wish.—S Marshall T/C 22:37, 4 August 2011 (UTC)
Yes, and that's exactly what you want—For all the editors who disagree with you to get tired of your endless complaints and go away in the hopes that you'll get your way. That's why it's long past the point where you should just give it a rest. You don't demonstrate consensus by making it a test of endurance. Quale (talk) 01:52, 6 August 2011 (UTC)
S Marshall is investing time trying to represent the view of about 1/2 of the folks at the RFC. A few folks on the "zero change" side have been just as persistent, so your one-sided implication is not correct. North8000 (talk) 01:59, 6 August 2011 (UTC)

Those of us in the US just got finished with an explanation of consensus building by the US Congress, where it is said that a typical measure of a compromise is that nobody gets what they wanted.  As for the current proposal, it is based on a consensus that verifiable material may or may not be accurate, and three references previously suggested as relevant.  There is already wide disagreement here about what these other policies mean, but it is part of the point to move that part of the discussion away from WT:V.  Unscintillating (talk) 23:43, 4 August 2011 (UTC)

While each phrase is technically true, I don't think that this proposals is one of the better ones that have been put forward. WhatamIdoing (talk) 03:30, 5 August 2011 (UTC)

A genuine compromise to resolve this, or at least calm it for a while?[edit]

A genuine compromise to resolve this, or at least calm it for a while? Part A[edit]

[new subsection inserted above] Unscintillating (talk) 13:52, 6 August 2011 (UTC)

I figure that the sign of an actual compromise is something that that Blueboar opposes as too radical of a change and which S Marshall says is an insufficient change. How's this for one of those?:

Add a second sentence which says: "Not truth" means that no other consideration, such as "truth" may be substituted for meeting the verifiability requirement.

Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 02:18, 6 August 2011 (UTC)

Without commenting on the merit of the proposal, I already tried starting a sentence in a recent proposal with "Not truth" and people found multiple reasonable ways to misread it, so I suggest considering instead:
Unscintillating (talk) 02:37, 6 August 2011 (UTC)

I think that that is better. So, my revised proposal is to add the following as a second sentence:
Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 10:18, 6 August 2011 (UTC)
I think we can shorten the proposal to, "The phrase "not truth" means that "truth" is not a substitute for verifiability."  Unscintillating (talk) 13:52, 6 August 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Yes, that's even better. So now my proposal is to add a second sentence which says:

North8000 (talk) 14:01, 6 August 2011 (UTC)

I would re-phrase this slightly as "The phrase "not truth" means that "truth" your belief that something is true is not a substitute for verifiability." WhatamIdoing (talk) 17:56, 10 August 2011 (UTC)
Sounds good. We could go even further and say, "your belief or knowledge that something is true is not a substitute for verifiability." --JN466 21:31, 11 August 2011 (UTC)

A genuine compromise to resolve this, or at least calm it for a while? Part B[edit]

Adding just the phrase " 'truth' " is looking at the issue of unsourced material from the viewpoint of those wishing to block the addition of material they believe to be inaccurate.  In cases where editors agrees that the material is accurate, but some still think verifiability is a first priority, WP:V could be more helpful.  What would have a broader viewpoint is:

  • 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 truth—whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether editors think it is true. The phrase "not truth" means that "truth" is not a substitute for verifiability. Accuracy is not a substitute for verifiability.

Unscintillating (talk) 13:52, 6 August 2011 (UTC)

Proposal withdrawn.  Unscintillating (talk) 22:41, 6 August 2011 (UTC)

Alternate proposal X[edit]

Let's see if this dog can hunt:

The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. The phrase "verifiability, not truth" is intended to convey the principle that accuracy is never a substitute for verifiability—readers must be able to check that any material in Wikipedia has been published by a reliable source.

Incorporating SV's comments and the wording I prefer, hurls rocks and stones as desired. --Nuujinn (talk) 17:38, 7 August 2011 (UTC)

Comments on the proposals[edit]

With B dropped, these are proposal A.

  • Support - I have no objections to this... either with or without the "Accuracy is not a substitute for verifiability" sentence. Blueboar (talk) 15:07, 6 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Support Prefer the one without the accuracy sentence, but either is good. North8000 (talk) 16:38, 6 August 2011 (UTC)
Ok, let's consider the "accuracy" sentence as an unrelated proposal, and one that is currently tabled.  Unscintillating (talk) 22:32, 6 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Something along these lines would be OK with me too (and I'm happy to see people getting back to discussing concrete changes to wording). I also think that the "Accuracy..." sentence is not needed, because it seems repetitive to me. I think it would be more to the point to drop the words about "The phrase "not truth" means". Simply: ""Truth" is not a substitute for verifiability." But I also don't feel strongly about that point, so if people want to retain the part about "the phrase means", I don't particularly object. On the other hand, I also don't feel strongly that we need to do any of this. --Tryptofish (talk) 19:02, 6 August 2011 (UTC)
To me the "means" part is important and central.North8000 (talk) 21:10, 6 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Well, it's a step in the right direction.—S Marshall T/C 21:16, 6 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Weak Support, I can live with it, but would much prefer 'The phrase "verifiability, not truth" is intended to convey the principle that accuracy is never a substitute for verifiability.' Strictly speaking "not truth" cannot mean 'that "truth" is not a substitute for verifiability', as it is too short. But if the proposed version can bring an end to this endless discussion, sign me up. --Nuujinn (talk) 21:22, 6 August 2011 (UTC)
I think it implies explaining the intended meaning of saying "not truth" rather than a literal definition. But I think you allowed for this in your "strictly speaking" qualifier. North8000 (talk) 23:12, 6 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose. The proposals make a syntactical error. No one has suggested that the first part of the first sentence reads:
  • {the threshold for inclusion} = {not truth}
Rather, it is:
  • {the threshold for inclusion} ≠ {truth}
It's therefore a mistake to add a sentence explaining what the phrase "not truth" means, because it doesn't mean anything here. The key phrase is "verifiability, not truth," and the sentence explains what that means, namely "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 no need to keep adding sentences that explain the meaning of the previous sentence, especially not when the explanations introduce errors or lack of clarity. For example, what is the purported difference between a true sentence and an accurate one?
North8000 and S Marshall have said they aim to make tiny changes that they hope no one will see as significant, e.g. S Marshall in June: "As I've explained before, the only way to make significant changes to the first sentence is via a slow accretion of stealth edits ...". I'm concerned that adding "explanatory" sentences will only lead to the next step in their effort to remove "verifiability, not truth" entirely. So if any of the supporters are doing so in the hope that it will end the discussion, I think that could be a mistake. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 15:36, 7 August 2011 (UTC)
Slim, please AGF, especially when your assuming bad faith is creative and erroneous in my case. Addressing the structural part, the sentence is implicitly about explaining the intent of saying "not truth" in the first sentence, not trying to define those two words. And the goal of the compromise is to bolster it's intended meaning (reinforcing wp:ver) and reduce all of the mis-meanings that have been derived from it. And, while I think that removing those two words would be the ideal solution, I certainly don't view this as a step towards that. In fact, as a practical matter, the compromise actually would (unfortunately, sorry S. Marshall!) serve to entrench those two words by significantly reducing the active opposition to them. My own goals were (ONLY) two: 1. Reduce the unintended, non-wp:ver effects of those two words. 2. Try to facilitate an end to the current painful situation which has arisen because there was no consensus to either keep or remove those two words. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 15:58, 7 August 2011 (UTC)
SlimVirgin, leaving aside the issue of intent, do you see the same problem in scope for 'The phrase "verifiability, not truth" is intended to convey the principle that accuracy is never a substitute for verifiability.'? I'd like to make sure whether I understand your comment. --Nuujinn (talk) 15:46, 7 August 2011 (UTC)
I don't see the same problem there, no. But it's still problematic. We could add "the phrase 'verifiability, not truth' conveys the principle that accuracy is never a substitute for verifiability." But what does that mean over and above "whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether editors think it is true"?
If people want to add something, we could say in a footnote: "Wikipedia articles aim only to offer an accurate and balanced overview of the relevant literature." But that takes us into the territory of NPOV/UNDUE, as others have pointed out. As I see it, the meaning of the first sentence is clear. I accept that a few editors don't like it, but the problem is not that it is unclear. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 16:00, 7 August 2011 (UTC)
Briefly, the most common problem is that it causes pervasive mis-paraphrasing of wp:ver to say that that wp:ver weighs in for INCLUSION of inaccurate material, and that wp:ver excludes accuracy from conversations about possibly excluding false material. And I'm talking about situations that do not involve wp:npov. North8000 (talk) 16:08, 7 August 2011 (UTC)
But you've continued to say this for months without evidence. No one has argued that we should include material where everyone agrees that a source has made a simple error. All the policies must be applied with common sense.
The point of V is that we give an overview of the relevant literature, whether or not we agree with it. And the point of NPOV/UNDUE is to resolve how to present a balanced view of that literature, whether or not we agree with it. Editors argue about how to apply these principles, but there is no confusion about the principles themselves, no matter how often you say there is. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 17:03, 7 August 2011 (UTC)
I submit that the last sentence of your first paragraph and that first 2 sentences of your second paragraph are correct but off-topic, and I disagree with the rest of your post and submit that wp:ver is pervasively mis-quoted / mis-paraphrased. Would be happy to discuss, give examples etc., but here is probably not the place for such a substantial discussion. North8000 (talk) 17:12, 7 August 2011 (UTC)
Please do give examples of it being "pervasively" misquoted. I've been editing for nearly seven years, with 115,000 edits to 13,000 unique pages, and I see it used and understood well. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 18:24, 7 August 2011 (UTC)
OK here's the first one. Between not knowing how to provide a diff / link to a block of text and not wanting to personalize this, I'm putting it in here: This issue is a group of editors wanting to leave out (or offset / qualify) one error that a medium quality source made, which nobody was arguing was accurate. And it was not in a wp:npov balancing situation:
  • Other experienced editor#1: Unfortunately, it seems that we still have Wikipedia editors who consider themselves to be more reliable sources than Walter Russell Mead writing in Foreign Affairs.
  • Other experienced editor#2 Academic books journals are the best sources because they are peer-reviewed and writers must clearly distinguish between facts and opinions and when they express opinions must explain their degree of acceptance. If Mead had written his article for an academic journal then we would be clear whether his description was generally accepted or merely his own opinion. We could then look at later papers to see the degree of acceptance his views had, whether they represented academic consensus, a majority view, a minority view, etc. Instead, Wikipedia editors must decide among themselves what weight to assign the views.
  • Me to experienced editor #1: I'm not sure whose comments you are responding to. If mine, you have characterized it. Wanting to leave out one obvious error the source made does not equate to what you describe. (North8000)
  • Experienced editor #1: I was referring to your comments, which display a fundamental misunderstanding of Wikipedia's policy and mission. The role of a Wikipedia editor is to accurately summarize what reliable sources have written on a topic, not to weigh in with what he assumes is his expert opinion on matters of public policy. Mead is an expert, writing in Foreign Affairasc magazine. You are some random guy on the internet. You have no authority to "correct" a leading expert writing in a reliable source, or to inform us what is or is not obviously the case or what is right or wrong about anything. I am sorry that you find this difficult to understand
In other words, the fact that it was sourced is sufficient to force it to be in the article, any anyone who advocates leaving out an erroneous item has all of the above shortcomings. North8000 (talk) 20:52, 8 August 2011 (UTC)
As I mentioned before, each of the zillions of times that that someone says something to the effect of "do not remove sourced material" followed (if they are challenged) by the "not truth" quote, and it is not in the context of a wp:npov balancing situation, they are arguing that wp:ver weighs in on the side of INCLUSION of any /all sourced material. Also, each time when an editors are arguing for exclusion of false sourced material (and again not in the context of a wp:npov balancing situation) and somebody says that the accuracy argument for EXCLUSION of material is not allowed because of "not truth". And, as before, if someone wishes me to, I'll go find lots of examples of these. North8000 (talk) 11:59, 8 August 2011 (UTC)
Yes, please provide examples of people failing to understand the first sentence of the policy, or interpreting it to mean that clearly mistaken material must be added to articles. As this has been requested many times it would make sense just to offer some. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 15:27, 8 August 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────I certainly won't deny that I have every intention of seeking consensus to remove "verifiability, not truth" from the policy, and continuing to seek that until (a) I achieve my goal or (b) I see evidence of a genuine consensus that Wikipedians want to retain that phrase.—S Marshall T/C 17:26, 7 August 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── I've put up an alternate to North8000's suggestion, sticks and stones welcome. --Nuujinn (talk) 17:40, 7 August 2011 (UTC)

I like yours better than mine, but fear that it will make things here really complicated. North8000 (talk) 17:49, 7 August 2011 (UTC)
If you mean things here, I doubt that's possible, but thanks for the compliment ;) --Nuujinn (talk) 17:59, 7 August 2011 (UTC)
How about putting that second sentence (or something like it), instead, in a footnote, and leaving the main text alone? --Tryptofish (talk) 00:16, 8 August 2011 (UTC)
That would be fine by me. What do other think, one way or another? --Nuujinn (talk) 00:38, 8 August 2011 (UTC)
I'd like the clarification to be prominent, per with "A" or "X". Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 02:48, 8 August 2011 (UTC)

SV states, "No one has suggested that the first part of the first sentence reads..."  This has to do with the ambiguity in the word "threshold", which creates both a threshold for the inclusion of truth as well as a threshold for the inclusion of not truth, but this ambiguity is not an issue currently being discussed.  In the context of the current conversation this appears to be a [red herring] argument. 

SV's direct objection does not pass inspection, if you look at the proposal it says exactly

which compares algebraically with:

  • {the threshold for inclusion} ≠ {truth}

Unscintillating (talk) 07:03, 8 August 2011 (UTC)

  • I don't think that's quite right. Preventing that interpretation is, surely, the purpose of the comma before the word "not". To me, it's clear that the policy wants you to believe that the minimum criterion for inclusion is verifiability and the truth has nothing to do with whether something should be included on Wikipedia. I have no problem with the first limb of that, but I take issue with the second.—S Marshall T/C 09:06, 8 August 2011 (UTC)
Re: the policy wants you to believe that the minimum criterion for inclusion is verifiability and the truth has nothing to do with whether something should be included on Wikipedia. I disagree... the policy wants readers to understand that 1) the minimum criteria for inclusion is verifiability, and that 2) truth is not the minimum criteria for inclusion. The reason for this is that truth has nothing to do with verifiability. Truth can (and should) play a part in inclusion... but the part it plays comesafter we have established verifiability. If a statement is not verifiable, it does not matter whether it is true or not... we can't add it. If a statement is verifiable, then we can look at other criteria for inclusion... such as how much weight to give it, should it be stated as fact or as opinion, etc. It is appropriate to discuss the accuracy/truth of the material once we get to this secondary stage. But before we get to such discussions we must first cross the Verifiability threshold. Blueboar (talk) 13:05, 8 August 2011 (UTC)
That's not what it says.—S Marshall T/C 18:43, 8 August 2011 (UTC)
Points 1 and 2 are exactly what the policy says, using other words. The rest comes from understanding what our other policies say. Blueboar (talk) 21:25, 8 August 2011 (UTC)
Agreed. The lead clearly says that the three content 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." Someone recently removed that the three work in harmony, which should probably be restored to underline the point that none of them can be understood or applied without reference to the others. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 21:40, 8 August 2011 (UTC)
It's still not what this policy says. Find clearer language.—S Marshall T/C 07:07, 9 August 2011 (UTC)
Why don't you suggest come clearer wording? I don't see a problem with the current wording myself, and if you're not willing to work with other editors, I see no point to continuing this discussion. --Nuujinn (talk) 09:55, 9 August 2011 (UTC)
I suggest amending the first sentence to read:- "The minimum standard for inclusion on Wikipedia is verifiability." It's not necessary to talk about truth in WP:V at all.—S Marshall T/C 10:09, 9 August 2011 (UTC)
Well, since that isn't going to happen (we have long since established that there is no consensus to change the first sentence), perhaps you could come up with another suggestion? Blueboar (talk) 13:28, 9 August 2011 (UTC)
Sure. "The phrase 'not truth' does not excuse introducing inaccuracies into the encyclopaedia." How's that?—S Marshall T/C 14:56, 9 August 2011 (UTC)
Now, that's really good. North8000 (talk) 14:59, 9 August 2011 (UTC)
No, that's really lousy. It will be widely understood as meaning that I get to delete anything that I personally believe is "inaccurate", e.g., that climate change is real, or that vaccines don't cause autism, or that Barack Obama was born in the US, or anything else you want to name. That sentence is nothing more than a gift to POV pushers and crackpots.
We could legitimately say that "The phrase 'not truth' does not excuse misrepresenting the contents of reliable sources", but the major point of this policy is that that your personal beliefs about what's true/accurate/real are irrelevant. WhatamIdoing (talk) 17:54, 10 August 2011 (UTC)
With respect, that's a serious misunderstanding of the policy. The major point of this policy, to the extent that it has a major point, is that before information can be included in Wikipedia it must be verifiable. The business about "not truth" is a fossil, a remnant of an edit originally made to a draft version of NOR, and now stripped of its context by multiple subsequent edits. The unsupported opinion statements that "it will be widely misunderstood" needs to be backed up by evidence of diffs that show where the phrase "not truth" has led to the resolution of a misunderstanding—or has, in any other sense, been unambiguously helpful—but the other wordings proposed could not have worked.—S Marshall T/C 18:26, 10 August 2011 (UTC)
WhatamIdoing is right. The point of the first sentence is that what editors believe is irrelevant. What we do is offer readers an overview of the relevant literature, period, including when we strongly disagree with it. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 18:42, 10 August 2011 (UTC)
I disagree; the statement that you and WhatAmIDoing are making is so broad that it includes things that are and are not policy. The latter unless you count the roaming mis-guided chants derived solely from the infamous two words as policy. North8000 (talk) 18:49, 10 August 2011 (UTC)
And thus we come to what lies at the heart of why we can not reach a consensus on language. We are never going to agree on wording if don't even agree on the basic principles that lay behind the wording. Personally, my understanding of the policy is a lot closer to that of WhatamIdoing and Slim Virgin than that of North and S Marshal. Blueboar (talk) 20:26, 10 August 2011 (UTC)
The onus is on North8000 and S Marshall to show that their understanding of policy is one that is widely shared; not just state that, but show it. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 21:00, 10 August 2011 (UTC)
Wait, what? What I said was: The major point of this policy... is that before information can be included in Wikipedia it must be verifiable, and you lot are actually disagreeing? Is this some kind of surreal practical joke?—S Marshall T/C 21:01, 10 August 2011 (UTC)
Um... you might want to read your comment again... you said a lot more than just that (the bit about "not truth" being a fossil for example). Blueboar (talk) 21:19, 10 August 2011 (UTC)
S Marshall and I are saying is wp:ver means what it says (the 2 ambiguous infamous words aside) and, perhaps unknowingly, the statement that you three are supporting is saying that in addition to that it means something very different which it does not say. Specifically that it mandates INCLUSION of material if it is RS'd. So, S Marshall and I are saying that wp:ver means what it says, and you are saying it means something it doesn't say. And WHO did you say the onus is on? ! ? ! ? North8000 (talk) 21:26, 10 August 2011 (UTC)
It doesn't mandate inclusion of everything that's sourced. It says verifiability is the threshold for inclusion, i.e. no inclusion unless a source exists. This discussion has reached the point where you're assuming people don't understand English, and I can't see the point of that. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 21:37, 10 August 2011 (UTC)
Slim, roughly speaking, you just did a 180 from a few hours ago, and now are agreeing with us. If we wanted to really get to the bottom of this, we would logically analyze the statement that you were supporting a few hours ago. It may not be apparent that, roughly speaking, it included the "mandating inclusion". North8000 (talk) 22:49, 10 August 2011 (UTC)
North, with respect, it's just that you're taking what people say way too literally. No one is counting simple errors by sources. No one is saying that, when the Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge says two plus two equals five, we must include it, or even waste time discussing it. We ignore it, because all agree it's a mistake. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 23:54, 10 August 2011 (UTC)
If that was the problem, Slim, nobody would be wasting any time on it. But what about when an accredited university publishes a book on baraminology and someone wants to use it as a source? WP:V as presently written positively encourages them to do that. But, as we've exhaustively demonstrated above, our current practice, in writing articles, would be to exclude such a source on the grounds that it's pseudoscience. What North and I are looking for is wording that documents our current practice.

What we've discovered is that when we mention the existence of these technically-reliably-sourced pseudoscientific claims, is that Wikipedians frame their answers in terms of which source is more reliable. Can you see the logical problem there?—S Marshall T/C 07:03, 11 August 2011 (UTC)

I sure can't. What's broken? Our current practice is governed by consensus, informed by policy, and it appears to be working fine. Otherwise, we'd be overrun by the mad hordes trying so desperately to add untrue material to WP. Also, we could use the work you cite as a source in some contexts, just not in scientific articles. --Nuujinn (talk) 10:20, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
Do you accept that policy should document good practice? My position has always been that our current practice is working as intended, and that policy should record it. And if we can't use the work I cite as a source in scientific articles, then shouldn't WP:V say so? (My position is actually that the baraminology text would have a place only in articles about baraminology, creationism, or related fringe theories, but I'm running with your view for the moment.)

As for what the logical problem is, it's this: when we decide which source is "more reliable", what we're actually deciding is which source is more likely to be true. Aren't we? And doesn't that make a nonsense of "not truth"?—S Marshall T/C 10:37, 11 August 2011 (UTC)

No, I don't. Policies prescribe required practice, they do not and should not document good practice. And no, V should not be so specific as to say which sources are reliable for specific topic areas, that is more appropriate in my view for guidelines, which are informed by policies. I don't know if you have noticed, but we decide everything here--if we decided to change V to say that only squirrels were qualified to verify sources, that would be our policy. And I agree with you that the baraminology text you cited would have limited value as a source--you asked "But what about when an accredited university publishes a book on baraminology and someone wants to use it as a source?" My answer is, we would do what we do, come to consensus about the usage of the source and so long as we did not violate policy, we're fine. That's normal operations around here. Now, if you need some help fending off someone trying to use that book in an inappropriate context, I'm happy to weigh in, but the value of Gedankenexperimenten is limited here. And no, when we decide which source is more reliable, we are explicitly not deciding which source is more likely to be true, we're deciding which source is considered more likely to be considered more accurate by experts in the field, which is a much different matter. --Nuujinn (talk) 10:55, 11 August 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── (making more room for this) --Nuujinn (talk) 10:57, 11 August 2011 (UTC)

  • I'll set aside the question of when policy should document the practice we already use, and when it should be used to effect a change of practice, for the moment. It's an interesting one, and central to my position, but even more crucial is the second point. I said, "when we decide which source is 'more reliable', what we're actually deciding is which source is more likely to be true", and you disagreed. You said it was more a question of which source would be "considered more accurate", by "experts". But I don't think this really does constitute disagreeing with my point. "Considered more accurate" is a synonym for "considered more likely to be true", and "expert" is a synonym for "one who has studied the subject and is likely to know what is true". I think that all you're doing is inserting a semantic layer between your position and the word "truth".—S Marshall T/C 11:19, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
It is may be a simple semantic layer, but it's an important one that affects what we can and cannot do. Everyone can edit here. Everyone can participate in discussions of content. I am reasonably well educated, but I am competent as an expert in only a small number of fields. Making a judgement about which source is more likely to be an accurate reflection of what experts hold to be true is fundamentally different than deciding which source is considered to be "true". For the former, I can use my knowledge about writing, research, journalism, academic sources, religion, and any number of indirectly related subjects. To do the latter requires that I have expertise in the subject area. That's a very important difference. --Nuujinn (talk) 13:51, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
I'm afraid I don't think that position holds any water at all, because it's hiding behind the undefined term "expert". I can only think of two objective definitions of "expert" that would include a lecturer in evolutionary biology but exclude Dr Timothy R. Brophy of Liberty University. The first is by defining an expert as someone who knows the truth, which is unfortunately rather circular, and the second is by defining an expert in terms of the mainstream scientific consensus (or "most common academic view", or whatever), which is what Blueboar and I discussed at such length earlier.—S Marshall T/C 14:31, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
IMHO once you try to define the finish line and how to get there (regarding potential exclusion of false material) things get complicated. Right now the prevalent mis-interpretations of wp:ver basically say that any such conversation is illegitimate, and say that the falseness of a statement may not enter into any conversation which would be determining possible exclusion of the material. So the remedy is much simpler than trying to define the route and end result for excluding material based on falseness, we just need to essentially get wp:ver to neutral ground on that topic. And simply let the conversation occur, an dlet considerations enter into exclusion conversations. Which basically means mitigating the unintended (-by-most) consequences of "not truth". North8000 (talk) 15:35, 11 August 2011 (UTC)

yet another arbitrary break[edit]

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────(edit conflict) In its original context, VNT read: "One of the keys to writing good encyclopedia articles is to understand that they should refer to claims that have become an accepted part of the public domain. In this sense, Wikipedia is about what is verifiable, not what is true." When first added to this policy, the VNT phrase was the fifth subsection of the page. Subsequent edits have emphasised the "not truth" aspect, stripped it of its original nuanced context, and placed it as the first sentence of the policy. The current version is, in this sense, a relic, or fossil, of the version in its original form. I really do think I'm writing quite plainly and simply here.—S Marshall T/C 21:30, 10 August 2011 (UTC)

Status So it looks folks liked proposal "A" (which I served up) 6:1, notably with the folks with the strongest views on both ends of the spectrum weighing in. Nuujinn created proposal "X" which I like even better. Are we to the point where we should weigh in on proposal "X"? North8000 (talk) 15:22, 8 August 2011 (UTC)

About "status": actually there is also the previous discussion, that got archived while people were engaging in discussion of meta-issues. Personally, I'm OK with leaving the page unchanged, or simply adding a footnote. But if the users who want to change the page actually want something to happen, as opposed to having a club for endless discussion with no endpoint, they should be prepared to compromise, and to focus on the actual wording of the page. --Tryptofish (talk) 16:00, 8 August 2011 (UTC)
Of course, plus about 30,000 words of other thoughts. I was more trying to address concrete compromise current proposals, and seeing what folks thought about methodically weighing in on Nuujinn's proposal X. North8000 (talk) 13:57, 9 August 2011 (UTC)
The ground rules here currently include that:
  1. There is no consensus to change the first sentence.
  2. There is no consensus to leave the first sentence unchanged, or at least the unintended meanings in the first sentence.
  3. We are working on an additional sentence or sentences after the first sentence to clarify the intended meaning and/or remove the unintended meaning of the first sentence.
  4. WP:Consensus is a policy that all editors should normally follow.
This having been said, Proposal X is outside the current scope of discussion.  Unscintillating (talk) 03:19, 11 August 2011 (UTC)

OK, so you are saying that Nuujinn's Proposal X is off the table now because it changes the first sentence. With support for "Proposal A" being 6 of 7 of the folks with the strongest opinions from both ends of the spectrum, I'm thinking of being semi-bold and putting it in. Comments? North8000 (talk) 14:10, 11 August 2011 (UTC)

What's Proposal A? I see a Proposal X, but no Proposal A. A Quest For Knowledge (talk) 16:13, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
I've been watching this discussion from the sidelines. The version I would accept is the one posted by WhatamIdoing at 17:56, 10 August 2011 (UTC) - "The phrase "not truth" means that "truth" your belief that something is true is not a substitute for verifiability." I feel the "your belief that something is true" phrase is critically important. The core purpose of this policy is to exclude editors' opinions and beliefs from article content. Roger (talk) 16:48, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
That's what the phrase "verifiability, not truth" means. And the first sentence of the policy already explains what it means: "whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether editors think it is true."
Indeed you are correct SlimVirgin, the proposal seeks to add a statement which is in fact already there - phrased differently, but meaning the same. Consequently I withdraw my initial (conditional) support. Roger (talk) 21:21, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
I think what's happening here is that editors opposed to change are making concessions in the hope of bringing the discussion to an end. I see that as a mistake, because it will lead to contradictions or repetition being added to the policy as a desperate measure. The best way to stop the discussion (if that's what people want) is to stop taking part in it. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 18:48, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
The best way to stop the discussion is, clearly, to reach consensus.—S Marshall T/C 19:13, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
I guess I'm a bit guilty myself of what Slim called making concessions in the hope of bringing the discussion to a conclusion. I like the existing first sentence, but I was hopeful that a clarifying second sentence would be a constructive way to resolve the concerns about "not truth". I think I was right on the merits, but wrong on the dynamics of this talk page. I've actually come to the conclusion that some of the editors who say they want to change the page are unwilling to accept any change that could actually achieve consensus. They, some of them, want either to overturn the concept of verifiability, or, if they can't achieve that (and they can't), to discuss the issue endlessly without ever agreeing to anything. For the rest of us, there is no best way to stop the discussion, but there is the option of ignoring it. --Tryptofish (talk) 20:13, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
I think we already have it, we just lost track. North8000 (talk) 20:23, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
I'm definitely in the camp that Slim refers to, not to bring discussion to an end, but to try to address some legitimate concerns brought up by North8000 and some others. At this point I believe very firmly that there are a couple of editors who are unwilling to work towards a consensus, and are in effect, if not by intentional, stonewalling discussion. --Nuujinn (talk) 22:07, 11 August 2011 (UTC)

Time to try to end it?[edit]

The version of Proposal A which received the 6 to 1 consensus, notably amongst the persons from the farthest ends of the spectrum on both sides was to add a second sentence which says: "The phrase "not truth" means that "truth" is not a substitute for verifiability" I am going to be semi-bold and try putting it in based on that consensus. Maybe that will put an end to this.

I thing that WhatAmIDoing's version farther down under "A" is even better which is to add a second sentence which says: The phrase "not truth" means that your belief that something is true is not a substitute for verifiability. However it did not go through that consensus process. We could change it to that later, and IMHO we should.

Finally, I think that Nuujinn's proposal "X" is the best of them all, but that it not on the table because it involves changing the first sentence.

So here goes!.....maybe this will settle it!  :-) Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 20:46, 11 August 2011 (UTC)

I did it. Now I'd like to propose changing it to WhatAmIDoing's version. North8000 (talk) 20:57, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
Well Slim, who was the "1" opposed in the above-described consensus took it out, saying "no consensus". Now what? North8000 (talk) 21:09, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
You've basically got two choices:- dispute resolution (in an attempt to enforce consensus—good luck with that, but I think Slim will successfully argue that six people doesn't constitute sufficient consensus to change a policy)—or back to discussion.—S Marshall T/C 21:33, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
Here we go again! If we're going back to the drawing board, I rather it be with Nuujinn's proposal "X". North8000 (talk) 21:51, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
Third choice... accept that you are not going to be able to change things and move on. Blueboar (talk) 22:09, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
Why on earth would we accept that? I mean, we would if we were sure nobody's mind could be changed through rational discussion and nobody new would join the conversation. But surely neither of those conditions obtain.—S Marshall T/C 22:19, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
I think you should be forced to accept it. Endlessly plowing the same ground can be considered disruptive on wikipedia, and I think that this could definitely be nearing that point. The discussion has remained civil, but really this was started in April or maybe even March. It would have been appropriate to table this all the way back in June since I don't think any progress is being made. Quale (talk) 23:03, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
I don't know why it is necessary to repeat both that (1) there is no consensus to change the first sentence, and (2) there is no consensus to not change the first sentence.  However, given that it is necessary to do so, I agree with Blueboar.  I'd suggest a four-week hiatus, at which time it is up to the involved editors to show that they can move forward without the involvement of informal mediation.  Unscintillating (talk) 01:08, 12 August 2011 (UTC)
Quale, if you believe it's disruptive to continue a very long discussion in the absence of any kind of consensus, please feel free to start a RFC/U on me. My position is that it is not my fault that no progress is being made. Unscintillating, how will your proposed hiatus help?—S Marshall T/C 07:41, 12 August 2011 (UTC)
My position is that it is your fault that no progress is being made, along with North who shares a roughly equal amount of blame. I am content to let people draw their own conclusions based on the record, although you'd have to be a masochist to wade through the four months and counting of wheel-spinning this page has seen so far. Quale (talk) 23:10, 12 August 2011 (UTC)

So, about half the folks at the large RFC want to completely remove "not truth" , half don't, so there is no consensus to keep or remove. The discussed middle ground is keeping "not truth" with an added sentence which says/clarifies/reinforces that the meaning of "not truth" in this policy is only to reinforce the verifiability requirement. So of the three possibilities, the one at the extreme end of the spectrum (keep "not truth" and add no wording) is the one that is currently in there by default. I am SICK AND TIRED of people who like that no-consensus-status-quo-from-one-end-of-the-spectrum villainizing even everybody seeking the middle ground as committing some type of misbehavior!! That's ridiculous, and certainly does not help develop any middle ground. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 11:39, 12 August 2011 (UTC)

As far as a middle ground solution, we had one proposal that received a 6 out of 7 approval from the main combatants. And the "1" (Slim) did not claim it was a policy change, just that it was redundant or had wording problems or something like that. And the "1" reverted it saying "no consensus". Sounds like an ownership problem enacted through a massive double standard; the "double standard" has been a pattern here. North8000 (talk) 12:00, 12 August 2011 (UTC)

Should we try to

  1. Enforce the consensus
  2. Take the same idea out for broader comment
  3. Villianize and stonewall the people seeking the middle ground until they just give up
  4. Craft a new proposal which just adds a sentence
  5. Float Nuujinn's proposal "X" for broad input. (possibly with minor tweaks prior to that)
  6. Other "move forward" idea.

North8000 (talk) 12:08, 12 August 2011 (UTC)

Comments on ideas[edit]

  • 2.—S Marshall T/C 12:09, 12 August 2011 (UTC)
  • I prefer #5, #2 as a second choice, #4 as a third choice. #1 is good in principle but let's not. North8000 (talk) 12:10, 12 August 2011 (UTC)
  • It's not a good idea to say, in effect, "not truth actually means something else". If we are going to have a "definition" of "not truth", I would prefer that it be in a footnote, not the main text. At the bottom of Wikipedia talk:Verifiability/Archive 49, I suggested a way to formulate it differently, so that wouldn't be a problem. (It's listed along with the current wording on the page, and I'm just fine with leaving the page as it currently is.) --Tryptofish (talk) 19:07, 12 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Please, let's not talk about enforcing a consensus when there isn't one. Abandon #1. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 21:42, 12 August 2011 (UTC)
  • None of the above. No consensus for the change you want, so just drop it for now. Take it up again in three to six months if you want to test whether consensus has changed. Quale (talk) 23:10, 12 August 2011 (UTC)

Breaking the sentence up into its component parts[edit]

The sentence that is causing all the commotion reads: "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 whet