Unreliable sources, or no sources at all?

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Unreliable sources, or no sources at all?

bobolozo
Much of the text of Wikipedia is unsourced currently.
In addition, due perhaps to lack of understanding of
our policies, or just the desire to add sources, we
have tens of thousands(at least) of unreliable sources
listed as references.  By doing a Special
pages/External links search, it's not hard to find
large numbers of these.  A search on *.tripod.com, for
example, gives 10,000+ links, many of which are being
used as references. africanelections.tripod.com alone
is linked to
484 articles, and is being presented as a source in
multiple templates.

My question is, is it a good idea to simply go through
and remove large numbers of these?  Are we better off
with no sources at all for portions of text, rather
than have references which consist of message board
postings and personal websites and such?

I noticed people using urbandictionary entries as
references, and went through and removed all I could
find, from about 100 articles (I left any links in
External links sections, as having a link there is
entirely different from having it listed as a
reference).  But now, having discovered the ease with
which I can find thousands more unreliable sources as
references, I'm wondering what others think of the
mass removal of unreliable sources.

Am I correct in believing that we're better off having
an unsourced paragraph of text, rather than a
paragraph which has as a reference
somedudeswebpage.tripod.com?

(And, yes, I know, it would be optimal to replace
unreliable sources with reliable ones.  But this would
take about 100 times as long)


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Re: Unreliable sources, or no sources at all?

David Gerard-2
On 22/03/2008, bobolozo <[hidden email]> wrote:

>  My question is, is it a good idea to simply go through
>  and remove large numbers of these?  Are we better off
>  with no sources at all for portions of text, rather
>  than have references which consist of message board
>  postings and personal websites and such?
[...]
>  reference).  But now, having discovered the ease with
>  which I can find thousands more unreliable sources as
>  references, I'm wondering what others think of the
>  mass removal of unreliable sources.
>  Am I correct in believing that we're better off having
>  an unsourced paragraph of text, rather than a
>  paragraph which has as a reference
>  somedudeswebpage.tripod.com?


Take extreme caution and make damn sure you know the subject area
first. "Reliable sources" is entirely relative to the subject area.

Mass removal of references is the sort of thing that has gotten people
taken out and shot by the arbitration committee before.


- d.

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Re: Unreliable sources, or no sources at all?

White Cat
Any mass action is disruptive unless there are urgent reasons to do so.

I would suggest finding a reliable source and updating the pages
accordingly. No one would yell you for that and you would be more satisfied
in what you are doing. It is always tempting to kill the patient to cure
them but remember we want to avoid the patients death.

  - White Cat


On Sun, Mar 23, 2008 at 11:49 AM, David Gerard <[hidden email]> wrote:

> On 22/03/2008, bobolozo <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
> >  My question is, is it a good idea to simply go through
> >  and remove large numbers of these?  Are we better off
> >  with no sources at all for portions of text, rather
> >  than have references which consist of message board
> >  postings and personal websites and such?
> [...]
> >  reference).  But now, having discovered the ease with
> >  which I can find thousands more unreliable sources as
> >  references, I'm wondering what others think of the
> >  mass removal of unreliable sources.
> >  Am I correct in believing that we're better off having
> >  an unsourced paragraph of text, rather than a
> >  paragraph which has as a reference
> >  somedudeswebpage.tripod.com?
>
>
> Take extreme caution and make damn sure you know the subject area
> first. "Reliable sources" is entirely relative to the subject area.
>
> Mass removal of references is the sort of thing that has gotten people
> taken out and shot by the arbitration committee before.
>
>
> - d.
>
> _______________________________________________
> WikiEN-l mailing list
> [hidden email]
> To unsubscribe from this mailing list, visit:
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Re: Unreliable sources, or no sources at all?

bobolozo
I carry out mass actions on a regular basis on
Wikipedia, I consider it part of Being Bold and the
urgent reason for doing so is always to improve the
encylopedia.

The question is whether or not we're better off with
unreliable sources or with no sources at all.  If the
answer is no sources at all, I have no problems
pulling 1000 inappropriate references if I can find
them, just as I would remove spam external links from
every article I found them in, or revert every single
instance where someone replaced an article with "I
love boobs!".

As you mentioned killing the patient in an attempt to
cure them, do you think we're better off with
somedudeswebpage.tripod.com as a reference for text in
an article, and if so, why?

--- White Cat <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Any mass action is disruptive unless there are
> urgent reasons to do so.
>
> I would suggest finding a reliable source and
> updating the pages
> accordingly. No one would yell you for that and you
> would be more satisfied
> in what you are doing. It is always tempting to kill
> the patient to cure
> them but remember we want to avoid the patients
> death.
>
>   - White Cat
>
>
> On Sun, Mar 23, 2008 at 11:49 AM, David Gerard
> <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
> > On 22/03/2008, bobolozo <[hidden email]>
> wrote:
> >
> > >  My question is, is it a good idea to simply go
> through
> > >  and remove large numbers of these?  Are we
> better off
> > >  with no sources at all for portions of text,
> rather
> > >  than have references which consist of message
> board
> > >  postings and personal websites and such?
> > [...]
> > >  reference).  But now, having discovered the
> ease with
> > >  which I can find thousands more unreliable
> sources as
> > >  references, I'm wondering what others think of
> the
> > >  mass removal of unreliable sources.
> > >  Am I correct in believing that we're better off
> having
> > >  an unsourced paragraph of text, rather than a
> > >  paragraph which has as a reference
> > >  somedudeswebpage.tripod.com?
> >
> >
> > Take extreme caution and make damn sure you know
> the subject area
> > first. "Reliable sources" is entirely relative to
> the subject area.
> >
> > Mass removal of references is the sort of thing
> that has gotten people
> > taken out and shot by the arbitration committee
> before.
> >
> >
> > - d.
> >
> > _______________________________________________
> > WikiEN-l mailing list
> > [hidden email]
> > To unsubscribe from this mailing list, visit:
> >
>
https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikien-l
> >
> _______________________________________________
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> [hidden email]
> To unsubscribe from this mailing list, visit:
>
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>



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Re: Unreliable sources, or no sources at all?

Steve Summit
In reply to this post by David Gerard-2
d. wrote:
> Mass removal of references is the sort of thing that has gotten
> people taken out and shot by the arbitration committee before.

Now I'm confused.  White Cat was just complaining that the arbcom
were ineffectual, and yet you're saying they can do *that*?  :-)

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Re: Unreliable sources, or no sources at all?

Andrew Gray
In reply to this post by bobolozo
On 22/03/2008, bobolozo <[hidden email]> wrote:

>  large numbers of these.  A search on *.tripod.com, for
>  example, gives 10,000+ links, many of which are being
>  used as references. africanelections.tripod.com alone
>  is linked to
>  484 articles, and is being presented as a source in
>  multiple templates.

At a glance, that site appears to be an excellent example of why
simply mass-delinking Geocities and Tripod is a bad move - yes, it's a
self-published resource, but it's a fairly serious and well-intended
one; it seems to be on Tripod because the author finds that
convenient.

A vast amount of the stuff on these sites is fluff, and I agree
entirely it's a good idea to use the hosting as a bit of advisory
information when you're looking at a link. But simply insisting on a
blanket ban on *hosting sites* - not even on individual websites! - as
inherently unreliable is... not helpful.

If he'd gone off and got some more discreet web hosting and put the
site up as "africanelectoralresults.org", well, we wouldn't be
proposing this. But the inherent reliability of the site wouldn't have
changed one bit.

--
- Andrew Gray
  [hidden email]

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Re: Unreliable sources, or no sources at all?

Eugene van der Pijll
In reply to this post by bobolozo
bobolozo schreef:
> The question is whether or not we're better off with
> unreliable sources or with no sources at all.

We're better off with having sources, even if there reliability is
questionable.

1) Unsourced statements are indistinguishable from OR.

2) Sources are information themselves; our mission is to give as much
information on a subject as possible.

3) An unsourced statement says that something is true. A sourced
statement says that something is true, according to so-and-so. The
latter is obviously and verifiably correct, unlike the first.

4) It enables a reader to make his own evaluation of the reliabilty of
the information.

5) It makes it easier to correct invalid information. If someone spots
an error in a tripod-sourced fact, he can communicate that to the
original source, as long as there is a reference to it. In that way, the
correction can be evaluated by the tripod-site owner, who is probably
more of an expert on the subject than a random wikipedia editor, and the
source material can be corrected as well.

6) If I come across a fact in Wikipedia that I think is incorrect, I'll
google around to see what the truth is. Often, I'll arrive at another
tripod-like site, and now I want to compare the reliability of that site
woth the original source of the statement in Wikipedia. If no source is
give, I will assume that Wikipedia is most likely correct (because our
quality lies way above the internet average!) and I'll not correct it...
However, if the source is given, I can compare both sites to see which
answer is more likely to be correct, and to determine what the WP
article should say (perhaps even include both statements, explaining
that the truth is not known in this case).

7) It's a courtesy, in some cases perhaps even an obligation, to someone
with a website whose information we use.

By all means insert a template expressing doubts about the reliability
of a reference, and inviting people to replace it with another
reference. And please make that template hideable in my personal CSS.

Eugene

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Re: Unreliable sources, or no sources at all?

John Lee-14
In reply to this post by bobolozo
On Sat, Mar 22, 2008 at 3:32 PM, bobolozo <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Much of the text of Wikipedia is unsourced currently.
>  In addition, due perhaps to lack of understanding of
>  our policies, or just the desire to add sources, we
>  have tens of thousands(at least) of unreliable sources
>  listed as references.  By doing a Special
>  pages/External links search, it's not hard to find
>  large numbers of these.  A search on *.tripod.com, for
>  example, gives 10,000+ links, many of which are being
>  used as references. africanelections.tripod.com alone
>  is linked to
>  484 articles, and is being presented as a source in
>  multiple templates.
>
>  My question is, is it a good idea to simply go through
>  and remove large numbers of these?  Are we better off
>  with no sources at all for portions of text, rather
>  than have references which consist of message board
>  postings and personal websites and such?
>
>  I noticed people using urbandictionary entries as
>  references, and went through and removed all I could
>  find, from about 100 articles (I left any links in
>  External links sections, as having a link there is
>  entirely different from having it listed as a
>  reference).  But now, having discovered the ease with
>  which I can find thousands more unreliable sources as
>  references, I'm wondering what others think of the
>  mass removal of unreliable sources.
>
>  Am I correct in believing that we're better off having
>  an unsourced paragraph of text, rather than a
>  paragraph which has as a reference
>  somedudeswebpage.tripod.com?
>
>  (And, yes, I know, it would be optimal to replace
>  unreliable sources with reliable ones.  But this would
>  take about 100 times as long)

It is better to have a source than no source at all. If you must do
this (I would not advise it), I strongly recommend you place the links
on the talk page. But there is no real point anyway; references exist
so our readers will know where we got our facts from. As Andrew says,
if this was not a Tripod site, it would probably be ignored as an ok
source. These refs should stay until we can find better ones.

Johnleemk

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Re: Unreliable sources, or no sources at all?

WJhonson
In reply to this post by bobolozo
 
In a message dated 3/23/2008 2:30:07 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time,  
[hidden email] writes:

My  question is, is it a good idea to simply go through
and remove large  numbers of these?  Are we better off
with no sources at all for  portions of text, rather
than have references which consist of message  board
postings and personal websites and  such?>>


-----------------------
It's a common misconception of our RS guideline/policy that "personal  
websites" are verbotem.  Actually we don't say that.  There are  exceptions.  While
it's true that *many* or perhaps *most* personal  websites are not to be used,
it's not true that they all are.
 
My second point would be, if the existing link gives evidence pointing  
toward other more reliable sources such as "... as he stated in a New York Times  
article..." then removing the link removes information that we could use to  
improve the article.  That is, the link could be changed to say "New york  times
blah blah blah as reported by *this site*"
 
Will Johnson



**************Create a Home Theater Like the Pros. Watch the video on AOL
Home.      
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Re: Unreliable sources, or no sources at all?

Matthew Brown-5
In reply to this post by bobolozo
On Sat, Mar 22, 2008 at 12:32 PM, bobolozo <[hidden email]> wrote:
>  My question is, is it a good idea to simply go through
>  and remove large numbers of these?  Are we better off
>  with no sources at all for portions of text, rather
>  than have references which consist of message board
>  postings and personal websites and such?

Absolutely not, under any circumstances.  Never remove a reference
unless you either (a) remove the information referenced (placing it on
the talk page unless it is libellous), or (b) add another reference to
a better source that completely covers everything the previous
reference did.

David is correct that removing references like this will lead to swift sanction.

-Matt

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Re: Unreliable sources, or no sources at all?

bobolozo

--- Matthew Brown <[hidden email]> wrote:

> On Sat, Mar 22, 2008 at 12:32 PM, bobolozo
> <[hidden email]> wrote:
> >  My question is, is it a good idea to simply go
> through
> >  and remove large numbers of these?  Are we better
> off
> >  with no sources at all for portions of text,
> rather
> >  than have references which consist of message
> board
> >  postings and personal websites and such?
>
> Absolutely not, under any circumstances.  Never
> remove a reference
> unless you either (a) remove the information
> referenced (placing it on
> the talk page unless it is libellous), or (b) add
> another reference to
> a better source that completely covers everything
> the previous
> reference did.
>
> David is correct that removing references like this
> will lead to swift sanction.
>
> -Matt

As far as I can tell, this statement that one should
never remove a source without replacing it or removing
the text it supports, this is not contained in any of
our policies or guidelines.

It would make sense if everything in Wikipedia were
sourced and if no unsourced content were allowed.
However, since probably 90+% of the text in Wikipedia
has no sources, I don't see why your statement makes
sense.  Unsourced content is allowed, and can sit
there for years in an article, but as soon as a
reference is ever added, even if the reference is
totally inappropriate, the unsourced content now must
be removed?

An extreme example of this, but... suppose some
spammer goes through and adds references to 1000
articles in random unsourced paragraphs, with the
source given being
mortgage-refinance-online-low-prices.biz, totally off
topic from any of the articles.  We're now not allowed
to remove this spam without gutting all of these
articles or spending hundreds of hours digging up sources?


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Re: Unreliable sources, or no sources at all?

Alex G-3
In reply to this post by Matthew Brown-5
Removing references because "WP:RS says this reference isn't good enough" is
counterproductive. There is no deadline, and the reference will be improved
or replaced by a more reliable source one day.

Until then, it looks nice to have something there :)
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Re: Unreliable sources, or no sources at all?

Todd Allen
In reply to this post by Matthew Brown-5
On Sun, Mar 23, 2008 at 12:24 PM, Matthew Brown <[hidden email]> wrote:

> On Sat, Mar 22, 2008 at 12:32 PM, bobolozo <[hidden email]> wrote:
>  >  My question is, is it a good idea to simply go through
>  >  and remove large numbers of these?  Are we better off
>  >  with no sources at all for portions of text, rather
>  >  than have references which consist of message board
>  >  postings and personal websites and such?
>
>  Absolutely not, under any circumstances.  Never remove a reference
>  unless you either (a) remove the information referenced (placing it on
>  the talk page unless it is libellous), or (b) add another reference to
>  a better source that completely covers everything the previous
>  reference did.
>
>  David is correct that removing references like this will lead to swift sanction.
>
>  -Matt
>
>
>
>  _______________________________________________
>  WikiEN-l mailing list
>  [hidden email]
>  To unsubscribe from this mailing list, visit:
>  https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikien-l
>

Though, I would say it would be best to tag it {{fact}} or {{real
citation needed}} or whatever it is, and remove it if none can be
found, if it is in the least bit questionable or dubious.
Self-published sources are not reliable. I do agree, though, that the
questionable information should be removed along with the reference.
Better to have it clearly marked "We got this from a crappy source"
then to just have it there with no provenance at all. If the
information is poorly sourced, it should be taken out until and unless
a real one can be found, not just the source removed.

--
Freedom is the right to say that 2+2=4. From this all else follows.

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Re: Unreliable sources, or no sources at all?

Chris Howie
In reply to this post by bobolozo
On Sun, Mar 23, 2008 at 5:23 PM, bobolozo <[hidden email]> wrote:
>  An extreme example of this, but... suppose some
>  spammer goes through and adds references to 1000
>  articles in random unsourced paragraphs, with the
>  source given being
>  mortgage-refinance-online-low-prices.biz, totally off
>  topic from any of the articles.  We're now not allowed
>  to remove this spam without gutting all of these
>  articles or spending hundreds of hours digging up sources?

You are confusing irrelevant, spammy sources with relevant, unreliable ones.

--
Chris Howie
http://www.chrishowie.com
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Crazycomputers

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Re: Unreliable sources, or no sources at all?

Matthew Brown-5
In reply to this post by bobolozo
On Sun, Mar 23, 2008 at 2:23 PM, bobolozo <[hidden email]> wrote:
>  As far as I can tell, this statement that one should
>  never remove a source without replacing it or removing
>  the text it supports, this is not contained in any of
>  our policies or guidelines.

Perhaps it isn't, perhaps it is.  It is, however, the /spirit/ of what
we should be doing on Wikipedia.  Policy and guideline pages are
constantly modified by people with vested interests in having them say
things that support their positions; I would not trust them.

Removing sources is contrary to the spirit of the encyclopedia and the
point of our sourcing policies.  Obviously you can contrive a
situation when one would do it; however, no Wikipedia policy is set in
stone, deliberately.

Having information in Wikipedia that is wholly lacking in sources is
poorer information to information that is properly sourced to a
second-rate source.  That information has provenance.  You can go and
look up the source.  You can try to find out where that source in turn
got its information.

-Matt

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Re: Unreliable sources, or no sources at all?

David Gerard-2
On 25/03/2008, Matthew Brown <[hidden email]> wrote:
> On Sun, Mar 23, 2008 at 2:23 PM, bobolozo <[hidden email]> wrote:

>  >  As far as I can tell, this statement that one should
>  >  never remove a source without replacing it or removing
>  >  the text it supports, this is not contained in any of
>  >  our policies or guidelines.

> Perhaps it isn't, perhaps it is.  It is, however, the /spirit/ of what
>  we should be doing on Wikipedia.  Policy and guideline pages are
>  constantly modified by people with vested interests in having them say
>  things that support their positions; I would not trust them.
>  Removing sources is contrary to the spirit of the encyclopedia and the
>  point of our sourcing policies.  Obviously you can contrive a
>  situation when one would do it; however, no Wikipedia policy is set in
>  stone, deliberately.


One point that bobolozo is missing, in his enthusiasm to get
mass-deleting, is that [[Wikipedia:Reliable sources]] is itself ...
not a reliable source. It's a guideline, and one with truck-sized
holes in it. Applying it robotically is a recipe for bureaucratic
stupidity. Thinking it can be applied bureaucratically suggests a lack
of the level of judgement one should have before performing such a
drastic mass action. Precis: if you think WP:RS justifies such a
course of action ... you shouldn't even be considering the action in
question, and need to go back and think more first.


- d.

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Re: Unreliable sources, or no sources at all?

Andrew Gray
In reply to this post by bobolozo
On 23/03/2008, bobolozo <[hidden email]> wrote:

>  An extreme example of this, but... suppose some
>  spammer goes through and adds references to 1000
>  articles in random unsourced paragraphs, with the
>  source given being
>  mortgage-refinance-online-low-prices.biz, totally off
>  topic from any of the articles.  We're now not allowed
>  to remove this spam without gutting all of these
>  articles or spending hundreds of hours digging up sources?

No, of course you're allowed to remove that. This is a strawman -
there is a very major distinction between maliciously-added spam links
and good-faith but-not-very-good actual sources.

--
- Andrew Gray
  [hidden email]

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Re: Unreliable sources, or no sources at all?

Risker
On 25/03/2008, Andrew Gray <[hidden email]> wrote:

>
> On 23/03/2008, bobolozo <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
> >  An extreme example of this, but... suppose some
> >  spammer goes through and adds references to 1000
> >  articles in random unsourced paragraphs, with the
> >  source given being
> >  mortgage-refinance-online-low-prices.biz, totally off
> >  topic from any of the articles.  We're now not allowed
> >  to remove this spam without gutting all of these
> >  articles or spending hundreds of hours digging up sources?
>
> No, of course you're allowed to remove that. This is a strawman -
> there is a very major distinction between maliciously-added spam links
> and good-faith but-not-very-good actual sources.


I frequently run into references where the linked reference does not support
the information added to the article. If I have time to try to find a better
reference, I will; however, if not then I remove the non-supportive
reference. Depending on the nature of the information being sourced
incorrectly, my next steps will vary. If it is essentially non-contentious,
it probably didn't need a reference in the first place, and I'll leave it
alone. If it is BLP-related and is potentially contentious, the information
has to go according to our own policies; removing it is not vandalism. If it
still needs a reference but is not a BLP issue, I'll stick a {{fact}} tag
on.

To me, having a reference that doesn't support the information written in
the article is more harmful to the project than having an unreferenced
statement, and I'll remove such references without hesitation.

Risker
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Re: Unreliable sources, or no sources at all?

David Gerard-2
On 25/03/2008, Risker <[hidden email]> wrote:

>  To me, having a reference that doesn't support the information written in
>  the article is more harmful to the project than having an unreferenced
>  statement, and I'll remove such references without hesitation.


This case is also not what the original question was about.


- d.

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Re: Unreliable sources, or no sources at all?

Risker
On 25/03/2008, David Gerard <[hidden email]> wrote:

>
> On 25/03/2008, Risker <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
> >  To me, having a reference that doesn't support the information written
> in
> >  the article is more harmful to the project than having an unreferenced
> >  statement, and I'll remove such references without hesitation.
>
>
> This case is also not what the original question was about.


Amazing how conversations evolve, isn't it?  Matthew Brown had earlier said:

"Absolutely not, under any circumstances.  Never remove a reference
unless you either (a) remove the information referenced (placing it on
the talk page unless it is libellous), or (b) add another reference to
a better source that completely covers everything the previous
reference did."

I am simply pointing out that there are good reasons for removing some
references, but there are other options than moving the information onto the
talk page.

(Sorry that I don't have the functionality to quote two separate posts in my
reply; Matthew's response was March 23rd).

Risker
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