From: "Charlotte Webb"
Reply-To: English Wikipedia <wikien-l(a)lists.wikimedia.org>
To: "English Wikipedia" <wikien-l(a)lists.wikimedia.org>
Subject: [WikiEN-l] Wikipedia:Fringe noticeboards/Theory
Date: Fri, 6 Jul 2007 01:20:46 -0500
Just when I thought the English Wikipedia had enough noticeboards, I
happened to see this:
I have to say I'm not optimistic about it. Looks like it could turn
into the recruiting point for every content dispute slash witch hunt
of the week.
I don't think it's very ethical, and definitely not in the project's
interests to invite others to jump into edit wars involving events
they know next to nothing about, particularly if it's something they
had never heard of until ten minutes before they reverted back to some
government's official explanation of it.
I'm not saying that doesn't happen already, but I doubt making it
"part of the job" as an official wiki-process is going to help
matters. Surely there are editors in good standing (and maybe even
some admins) who really don't care who shot JFK or what happened that
night in 1947. Just like there will be others like myself who, as
readers, would prefer to learn about all the viewpoints and draw their
We should respect that, rather than pointing the "closet conspiracy
theorist" finger around, if this is actually going to work.
The question should not be "lol, you mean you actually believe
_____?", but more like "Is there a compelling reason not to
acknowledge that many people do believe _____?".
Last warning though, if I see something like "How do you feel about
WP:FRINGE theories, and will you <s>help patrol the following
articles</s> assist us at WP:FTN if we support your RFA?" become a one
of the 20 non-standard standard questions I will seriously cut myself.
Crikey. Well, I did create the thing, so I guess it's my job to police it so
that it doesn't turn into witchhunt forum.
In all honesty, I think you're underestimating just how bad a problem fringe
theory pushing is. You go and have a look at some of our more obscure
articles, particularly on "nationalist" topics. Then check what the academic
literature (not government propaganda, academia) actually says about the
subject matter. Often the disparity between what should be written at
Wikipedia and what's actually there is vast. It's so easy for an article,
particularly an obscure one, to be taken over by a crank who just shoves his
lonely point-of-view non-stop, shouts loudly, and wins through apathy, or
through lack of eyes. The notability of the crank's theory is not discussed
at all: he just includes it as fact. Nothing wrong with notable fringe
theories being discussed, but non-notable ones promoted as fact?
Some of our articles stay in this awful state for years.
We have good mechanism in place for dealing with vandals, but a non-existent
one for dealing with trolls and cranks, which are much more of long-term
threat. Particularly cranks, because we have no effective method that deals
with someone that shouts hard enough and long enough, promoting some whacko
craziness. If you revert them, unfortunately that's a "content dispute" and
you're "involved". You can revert, block, and ignore a vandal. You can't
the same to a crank, no matter how awful the stuff he's pushing is.
Hopefully, having a place to report incidences of such nutcasery will help,
though the problem won't entirely go away until we get binding content
So why the noticeboard? Well, I think that it's not a bad idea to have some
more impartial eyes on disputes concerning fringe theories. Not to encourage
edit wars, but to deal with promotion of fringe theories as mainstream
opinion(the main problem), and as a central place to talk about when
discussion of a fringe theory that may (or may not be) notable should be
That RfA scenario is surely a bit unlikely, no?
P.S: "We do need to centralise discussion on fringe theory pushing, since a
lot of it happens on out-of-the-way articles (geostatistics and kriging are
examples I've seen, in which it's taken forever to recruit someone
knowledgeable enough to push back versus a monomaniacal crank) -- it'd be
great to have a single place to post problems for attention by experts." -
"But articles that implicitly assert some of these things DO exist on the
project, and while this might be better suited as a Wikiproject, that can
always be changed going forward if the noticeboard turns out to be something
useful." - Chairboy
Look at MONGO, having to deal with exactly this kind of nonsense all day and
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