Sunday, January 08, 2006

NPOV and sources

The NPOV or Neutral Point of View is one of the fundamental policies of the Wikimedia Foundation. It serves us well, and it is a great instrument to prevent POV pushers from getting the upper hand. At this moment there is a clarion call for more quality and providing sources is seen by many as a "silver bullet".

Let me be clear about my position; I am all in favour of providing sources with articles. However, for every controversial subject you can find literature that "proves" all the crackpot ideas that are floating around. To complicate things even more, literature available in one country or language is not all the literature that exists on a subject. It is therefore my position that you do not prove anything by providing sources, you only prove that there are sources that helped us come up with a particular article and that it raises the standard of quality.

Yesterday, there was a New Year meeting of Wikipedians in Rotterdam, and as is usual at such meetings all kinds of everything were discussed. Including the problems with sources. During the discussion we came up with the following:

We need a central database to do away with the current interwiki links. When we have such a database, we should have all sources for the same subject, never mind what Wikipedia it is, in there as well. It helps people find sources but also when there is a difference in the view taken between the different Wikipedias, the sources can be compared and it will prove to be a usefull instrument to deal with cultural bias.

The thing that triggered this idea was that Oscar had bought a book about the Amazingh. On the Dutch Wikipedia there was a guy who quoted sources that noone of us could read as it was in the Berber language. I was really pleased that Oscar took the effort to buy this because it shows very much his good faith, our good faith. By having all sources for the same subject in one place, we would show similar good faith and, it would be a really powerfull tool to remove much cultural bias from the Wikipedias.


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