It is natural that as we grow our values take more certain form, and our
understanding of them, and the reasons for them, develop.
I believe that Verifiability and No original research are two policies
essential to the future of the project, which is to produce a high-quality
encyclopedia. If other encyclopedias are not rigorous on these matters, it
is because their articles are generally written by PhD.s or graduate
students, and are peer-reviewed. I do not want our articles to have to be
written by PhD.s or go through mandated and rigorous
peer-review. Therefore, I think these two policies are necessary. And
hand-in-hand with them, our Cite sources guideline is just as important.
If I have been following this discussion adequately (and I admit I often
miss things) many people have concerns about how realistic it is to expect
every editor, especially newbies, to comply with these standards. And I
appreciate these concerns. However, I do not think the issue is compliance
with these standards as such. I think there is a different issue.
Specifically, it is our articles that must comply with these
standards. This I think is important for one simple reason that gets at
the heart of our project: it is a collaborative work in process.
If Wikipedia is as I believe it is and ought to be a collaborative work in
process, then our policies are ideals to which we expect our articles to
aspire, but no one editor can bear the full responsibility of achieving this.
This, at least, has always been my understanding of our prized NPOV
policy. For example, I just added considerable material on the role of
"love" in Judaism in the "Judaism and Christianity" article. I have
doubt that I have failed to express the full range of Jewish
views. Moreover, I am not qualified to explain the Christian views. Does
this mean I have violated NPOV? I do not think so, because I have
identified which point of view I have represented (and here, citing sources
is practically a requirement). And I have left notices on a variety of
talk pages, of both articles and users, inviting them to add more Jewish
views and Christian views. This is what I mean by a collaborative
effort. It may not be this week or this month but I have no doubt that in
a year this section of the article will represent a variety of views fairly.
In other words, I wrote my contribution so as not to break our NPOV policy,
and so as to leave room for others to contribute.
I just think we should take the same approach to Verifiability. No one
should deliberately add unverifiable information in an article, and if they
do, it should be deleted. Moreover, no one should bear the bull
responsibility of providing all sources. In the Capitalism article someone
has made claims about communism. I did not immediately demand that they
provide a source. I first when to my books by Marx, Engels, Lenin,
Trotsky, and Mao. I could not find confirmation in any of the books for
some of those claims added by another editor. Had I, I would have added
the sources myself -- this is what I mean by collaboration.
In one case I could not find a source and said so, and another contributor
provided the source -- this is what I mean by collaboration.
I would demand that the specific editor adding specific information provide
the source only if I could not find the source myself and suspected that
the information were unverifiable. If the contributor in question, as well
as other contributors, cannot find a verifiable source, I do believe that
warrants deletion. But my point is this: I believe verifiability should
and will be achieved through a collaborative process.
That said, I also insist on the corollary: our collaborative process should
be dedicated to producing articles based on verifiable sources. A
collective process requires a collective commitment.
Steven L. Rubenstein
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Athens, Ohio 45701