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OT - Wikipedia

  1. Oct 29, 2006 #1
    Sorry, I didn't know where to post this but does anyone else feel that backing up one's position by linking to Wikipedia should be banned on PF? In my opinion its too easy to do and the great thing about PF is that industry professionals congregate here to give professional answers that are customized to the questions asked. Linking to Wikipedia is not an answer. Nor is linking to a google search page. We aren't internet infantiles, if we thought we could get the answer we wanted easily by going to Wikipedia or Google, we would not spend time posting questions here.

    Personally, I find that one of the best attributes of PF is that its an intellectual database where civilians and novices (like me) can ask professionals (like Garth, ZapperZ, Spacetiger, Varnesch and many others...) questions about advanced physics topics. I like to read popscience books like 'A brief history of time', and 'The elegant universe' and then come here to ask the tough questions that these books skim over. As a bonus, the professionals here read tons of white papers and can always refer you to the niche papers that cover EXACTLY what your question sought to answer.

    I guess I'm just frustrated. Am I wrong in thinking that linking to google and Wikipedia just dumbs down this site?
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2006
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  3. Oct 29, 2006 #2

    Hootenanny

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    Personally, I only link to external sites if I feel that they offer a good explanation of the concepts, especially if they contain informative diagrams. I find that external links can be especially useful if someone is trying to get to grips with the broad concepts of a subject, why type out what is already said on another site? I can empathise with you when one is palmed off with a link as a kind of hand-waving answer, but external sites do have genuine uses as outlined above.

    In addition, some people do not come here to learn; they come here to get answers and in a few cases they will come here before searching on Google because it is a lot less effort for them if people spoon feed them the answers.
     
  4. Oct 29, 2006 #3

    Moonbear

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    We don't ban use of Wikipedia as a reference, but we strongly discourage it, because it is neither an authoritative nor permanent source (anyone can edit it, which means the article you cite today might be different tomorrow). It is useful in the way any basic encyclopedia is useful, as a quick and dirty starting point, but it is necessarily oversimplified, and as such, not a good source for many of the discussions here, unless one is looking for a simple definition.

    If people are supporting their argument with wikipedia, those with more solid knowledge of the literature can and do refute any inaccuracies or misunderstandings with more thorough or accurate references to scientific literature. When a Wikipedia article is entirely off-base (as in, not just oversimplified, but outright wrong or recently written by a crackpot using it to support their own arguement), we will delete it. If you see a link to such an article, please report the post (using the report post button that has the exclamation point on it).
     
  5. Oct 29, 2006 #4
    Hoot,

    Yes, I can see your point, especially about the benefit of linking to diagrams that are otherwise difficult or cumbersome to explain in writing.

    Moon,

    You also make excellent points about the value of linking to low brow 'answer entry points'. PS Your avatar is amazing. One of the funniest things I've ever seen, lol.
     
  6. Oct 29, 2006 #5
    Sometimes there are people who will take the easy way out and do not want to search for it themselves because they are somewhat lazy eg. when it comes to asking questions such as "Where can I find more information about [common sub-section]". If a person is going to ask that, he or she usually needs to search on google or a website such as hyperphysics. It is just a matter of who is the one that performs the search.

    Why spend 15-20 minutes thoroughly explain something that is written in detail somewhere else (excluding websites such as wikipedia of course)?

    If there is something special that is not explained in detail I'm all for asking, but just asking off the bat seems a bit lazy to me for people that are not very rookies to science.

    Although this has a minor importance to PF, there is only one way to answer a question similar to "where to find a script that does X" in my opinion.
     
  7. Oct 29, 2006 #6

    SpaceTiger

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    Even worse, I find people often copy and paste wikipedia articles into their posts without citing it. Personally, I think wikipedia should only be linked when an expert thinks that the article provides a good layman's review that they wouldn't have time to write up themselves. Non-experts shouldn't be linking it because they won't be able to judge its accuracy. It also shouldn't be used as a source to defend an argument.

    None of the above should be explicitly written as a rule, however. Things like this are best left at the moderator's discretion so that the forum guidelines don't get too cumbersome and inflexible.
     
  8. Oct 29, 2006 #7

    Hootenanny

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    I agree, too much bureaucracy and regulation would only hinder PF and is not really part of the PF ethos. PF is after all an Internet forum, albeit a very respectable forum, not an educational institution. The onus is on the moderator to decide whether or not the sources are credible.
     
  9. Oct 29, 2006 #8

    Danger

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    I have a tendency to link to sites under the aforementioned circumstances. (Never Wiki, though; I don't trust that sucker at all, for the reasons that Moonbear cited.) For instance, when someone asked about drawing worm-and-roller gears, I did a Google Images search and found more than he needed on the first page alone. I'd been prepared to spend a couple of hours draughting one up in Illustrator for him before I thought of it.
    I will also give people the benefit of the doubt as to not searching themselves. For one thing, quite often the best result of a search is a PF thread. That's how I ended up here. For another, as was also my situation, it could be a newcomer to the net who doesn't really know how to use it. The first time that I was ever on line was when I came here, and I had no idea what was going on. (I still don't know how other forums or chat rooms or whatnot work; I've never been to one.)
     
  10. Oct 30, 2006 #9

    Meir Achuz

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    Yes, please.
     
  11. Oct 30, 2006 #10
    uncyclopedia has always been one of the most reliable source of information on the internet.
     
  12. Oct 30, 2006 #11

    Moonbear

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    Sometimes they also don't quite know which keywords will pull up the result they're really looking for, or might be spelling it wrong because they are still learning the terminology.
     
  13. Oct 30, 2006 #12

    Ivan Seeking

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    I use wiki when it saves me time, when the discussion is generic, and when I already know for sure that the core information is accurate. If someone calls me on it I know that I can find a better source. Sometimes is just seems silly to write something up when someone at wiki has already posted what I would say. In order to prevent someone from effectively changing the content of your post by editing wiki, quote the most significant part.
     
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2006
  14. Oct 30, 2006 #13
    Ok, ok, I see your points. Since we have so many wonderful moderators here, references to faulty Wiki entries easily get scrutenized and relegated to the realm of falsehood or truth. So, if anything, these references only disinform PF users for the few minutes (or seconds in some cases) between the erroneous posting and the moderator's corrections. All's well that ends well I guess. I'm glad we sorted this out.
     
  15. Oct 31, 2006 #14

    Danger

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    The quoting thing never occurred to me. I've always wondered why you and Astro and Russ would post a link and then go ahead and quote most of it. Makes sense. :approve:
     
  16. Oct 31, 2006 #15

    arildno

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    Dearly Missed

  17. Oct 31, 2006 #16

    chroot

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    In my days at PF, I've identified some specific categories of "unanswerable" questions. These are questions which really cannot be answered satisfactorily by volunteers posting asynchronous messages to a forum. I'll demonstrate these categories with examples:

    1) The unreasonably broad: "How does a transistor work?"

    2) The hand-holding: "Can anyone tell me where Egypt is?"

    3) The degree-in-a-nutshell: "Can someone teach me to design and build a video game console?"

    4) The hopelessly esoteric: "Why does the SNR of my 16-QAM communications system improve when I move from CCITT channel coding standard X10281 to X10382?"

    The first two categories are actually much better handled by a link to an encyclopedia-level article.

    There's no way anyone is going to spend hours typing up an answer to an unreasonably broad question, when many other people (e.g. textbook authors) have already done a better job a dozen times.

    There's no reason to spend the time typing up personalized answers to questions which simply indicate a lack of research skills. It's better to simply teach the person where to find that information without anyone else's help.

    There's also no real point in trying to answer the degree-in-a-nutshell questions, since they really require dozens of books and years of education. The best response to such questions is often a reference to a good introductory book or article on the topic.

    In general, if you ask a question and get nothing but a wikipedia link in response, your question probably wasn't all that well formed to begin with.

    - Warren
     
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