[Wikipedia-l] Acknowledgements

lcrocker at nupedia.com lcrocker at nupedia.com
Wed Aug 21 23:46:10 UTC 2002

I've read the replies and issues, and I've thought seriously about 
it, but I really have to come out against putting acknowledgements on 
the pages themselves.  It's /not/ required by the license, it's /not/ 
what I would expect someone using our text to do, it clutters the 
page with information that isn't relevant to most users, it gives a 
sense to users of the text being a "fixed" rather than "dynamic" 
thing, and it will create a growing problem in the long run.

Crediting sources, in traditional works in traditional media, has 
always been in ways that didn't disrupt the work itself.  Credits 
appear after movies, on the copyright page of a book, in footnotes or 
endnotes, the "About" box of a GUI program, etc., where only those 
interested in the information would see it.  If someone wants to use 
our text from here, I would likewise expect them to mention us 
wherever they have their own credit statement, probably on a page 
linked from the article, not on the article itself.

Putting acknowledgements in the articles themselves I fear might also 
give the wrong impression about our content here: for one thing, it 
makes the text look like an imported whole, and might discourage 
people from making sweeping edits.  It might also appear to credit 
the external source with edits that weren't his, even if the language 
is vague like "some parts based on...".  If the credits are put on a 
separate page where only people who are interested will see them, 
then ordinary users won't be confused.

But perhaps the most serious problem I see is that works getting 
copied from one source to another and to another over periods of time 
may accumulate more credits than actual text.  We don't toot our own 
horn on article pages, and we don't sign edits on the pages, so why 
should we treat external sources even better?  We're here to serve 
the readers, not the egos of writers who think writing a sentence or 
two is a major accomplishment forever worthy of credit.  Indeed, we 
are changing the notion of "authorship" itself, and we shouldn't 
constrain ourselves to policies that fit the old paradigm.

I personally think that the summary comments and talk pages are fine; 
but I'm also open to the idea of a "Credits" or "Notes" or "About" 
namespace specifically for such things.  These pages might all 
automatically start with some boilerplate about the dynamic nature of 
authorship here and point to our policies.  I think we can just 
create and enforce talk-page policies that serve that purpose well, 
and document that use.

Another possibility I'm open to is a wiki markup specifically for 
endnotes and credits, that gets rendered in a smaller font at the end 
of the article or something, and which is preceded by some 
boilerplate; for example, maybe something like

Parts of this article were based on FOLDOC...

Could render a section at the bottom of the page like:

<blockquote class="credits">Content of Wikipedia is dynamic and 
editable by all users, many of them anonymous.  But copyright license 
terms may require us to give credit to particular authors at times:

Parts of this article were based on FOLDOC...

The stylesheets would render it small, or in faded colors, or even 
not at all if we chose.

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