[Foundation-l] NPOV as common value? (was Re: Board statement regarding biographies of living people)

Birgitte SB birgitte_sb at yahoo.com
Wed Apr 22 17:39:00 UTC 2009

--- On Wed, 4/22/09, Ting Chen <wing.philopp at gmx.de> wrote:

> From: Ting Chen <wing.philopp at gmx.de>
> Subject: Re: [Foundation-l] NPOV as common value? (was Re: Board statement regarding biographies of living people)
> To: "Wikimedia Foundation Mailing List" <foundation-l at lists.wikimedia.org>
> Date: Wednesday, April 22, 2009, 6:11 AM
> Hallo Brianna,
> NPOV is mainly a principle of Wikipedia, later also used by
> Wikibooks 
> and Wikinews. There is at least one project (Wikiversity)
> which 
> explicitely allow participants not to follow NPOV, but the
> Disclosure of 
> Point of Views in Wikiversity follow in principle the ideal
> of NPOV: It 
> tells the reader and participants that the content has a
> point of view 
> and thus gives the reader and participants to be aware of
> this and 
> accordingly to adjust their judgement in reading and
> writing the content.
> The question here is about projects like Commons or
> Wikisource. Mainly 
> they collect free content and serve as a shared repository
> for other 
> projects so that these other projects can use these
> content. The content 
> themselves may have POV, that's for sure, and we don't make
> edits or 
> comments in these sources to make them NPOV. But we do
> category them. 
> And at least here we do make sort of comment in the source.
> Let me take 
> an example that actually happend on Commons. It makes a
> diffrence if we 
> categorize a caricature of an israeli bus in form of a
> coffin to the 
> very neutral Category:Bus or to more commentary category 
> Category:Political caricature or to the very strong
> commentary category 
> Category:Anti-israeli caricature. It makes very big
> difference how 
> Commons categorize such images. And I am in these cases
> more for the 
> implementation of a similar policy like Wikiversity's
> Disclosure of 
> Point of View: A source with a very strong bias of point of
> view should 
> be accordingly categorized. With that we do nothing else as
> to hold our 
> principle ideal of NPOV on projects like commons.

I don't think of NPOV as being a common value, but rather I think NPOV as being Wikipedia's answer to the common value of avoiding editorial bias. Wikipedia has much more fine-grained editorial input than Wikisource or Commons.  Wikisource and Commons must avoid editorial bias in the presentation of the works we host, rather than within the works themselves.  Wikisource for example does not allow excerpts of published works (as opposed to published excerpts).  While we host biased material, we aim to avoid biased presentations of material.  So far it seems to have been successful, even where there have been initial accusations of bias or inaccuracy to be worked out.

I think the people who are saying NPOV is a common value, are just using this acronym as shorthand.  If you really examine how NPOV is defined; it simply doesn't hold up for other projects.  The real value behind this issue if the "sum of all human knowledge".  Bias in the form that excludes other information or interpretations is taboo, yet bias itself is not excluded.

Birgitte SB


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