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The Time Is: 23:35

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AKA b:User:Dpbsmith

First edit 06:11, 6 Sep 2003, to Jack London

For making me laugh when reading VFD. 13:15, 19 Jan 2005

Citing sourcesEdit

Traditionally, encyclopedias are not well-referenced. They sometimes provide what might be called "selected bibliographies," things the writer thinks you might want to read next. But references, in the sense of "here's where I got it," no.

Many, but by no means all of the articles in the EB 11th have a set of contributor's initials (which you can look up in a table). Odd, since it doesn't save that much space; the editors don't really want you to focus on the contributor. Well, knowing the name of the contributor is not that helpful anyway. When it's someone like Ernest Rutherford, well, you probably can figure they knew what they were talking about. For the rest, their credibility basically rests on the jumble of letters after their name and the miniature who's-who-like description.

Have I ever heard of "Arthur Dendy, D. Sc., F.R.S., F.Z.S., F.L.S., Professor of Zoology in King's College, London, Zoological Secretary of the Linnean [sic] Society of London. Author of memoirs on systematic zoology, comparative anatomy, embryology, &c?" No. Do I think he knows his stuff when it comes to sponges? Well, yeah, sure, sounds like it, probably. Most of my profs didn't have that many letters after their name. I have no way of knowing whether he was a POV-pusher, though, and you'd better believe you can have letters after your name and still be a POV-pusher. Big-time.

But Wikipedia is different from print encyclopedias, because basically it's all written by anons, registered or not.

I haven't been following the "bad reference/good reference" stuff but I find the whole idea baffling. The purpose of a reference is very simple. You're telling people where you got your information. It's not a question of good or bad, it's a simple statement of fact. If I got my "facts" from The National Enquirer, and I say I got them from the National Enquirer and I give the date and page number, that's a good reference. The only bad reference would be an untruthful reference—if I got them from the National Enquirer but said they were from The New York Times.

But, either way: if I give the reference, I'm giving people reasonable assurance that I didn't just make the statement up—unless I'm a total liar and fraud, and there aren't that many of them contributing to Wikipedia.

And a specific reference is verifiable. If I lie about it, I will eventually get caught. If someone says that The New York Times published an article about a 400-pound eight-year-old girl who was inseminated by a space alien and gave birth to a two-headed unicorn, on page 7, July 16th, 2000, well as it happens I can go online courtesy of my local public library and find out in about sixty seconds whether there's really such an article. (I'll leave you in suspense as to the answer).

If someone says "I got it from the National Enquirer, page 1, April 1st, 2000," that's a good reference. First of all, a lot of people will be able to say right off the bat, "The National Enquirer? then I won't believe it."

Furthermore, I can check the context. Maybe it says "It is said that the natives of some remote Canary Islands have an ancient legend that a 400-pound, etc." The chain of traceability is broken. Vanished into the mists of the Canaries.

But maybe it says "Dr. Fargo M. Seneca, chief obstetrician at St. Mary's Hospital in Madison, said that a 400-pound etc." Cool! Another source citation! I can call up St. Mary's and say, I'm writing an article for Wikipedia, I'm tracing a statement by Dr. Seneca in a news report. Could I speak to him, please?

(By the way: I've had very good luck contacting "press" contacts by email or phone, and saying "I'm editing an article in Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, and I was trying to check thus-and-such fact..." I always give Wikipedia's URL. Sometimes I even explain that anybody can edit Wikipedia. So far, I've gotten respectful and helpful treatment every time).

So, I say, cite your sources. If you got it from a secondary source, just say so. The important thing is to say where you got it and maintain a chain of traceability.

P. S. True story about how this works. In grad school, a bunch of us were having a bull sessions about whether or not UFOs were real. One guy was very impressed by a book written by someone from APRO or NICAP or something, and, in particular, by a statement that appears in it that said that some pieces of an alien craft had been analyzed and were of some substance of a purity that was never seen on Earth and couldn't occur on Earth as the oxygen would degrade it within a few weeks. He was a chemist, IIRC, and knew that indeed any substance that pure couldn't have been terrestrial in origin.

So I said, "OK, let's take this as our test case. How do we know the author of the book wasn't just making it up?" The book that said that the scientist who did the analysis was something like "Dr. Ortega Perez-Guillermo of the Metallurgy Department, University of San Andrés, La Paz, Bolivia."

I went to grad school at a big state university with a fine library. I did a bit of poking around. Guess what? Our library had quite a lot of material from the Universidad de San Andrés, including several faculty directories spaced over the last ten or fifteen years. It turned out that the Universidad de San Andrés didn't even have Departamento de la Metalurgia. And in any case, it didn't have anyone named Dr Ortega Perez-Guillermo in any department.

I asked whether we should write to the university, but it was generally agreed that it didn't seem as if that story was very credible.

Source citations are heap big medicine.

"The sky is blue"Edit

People are always giving this as an example of something that does not need citation. In fact, it is a bad example, first because the sky is not always blue and therefore this is a "fact" that is not really quite true, and secondly, because as is so often the case of things that "can't be sourced because they're just common knowledge," it is very easily sourced:

A field guide notes that "the blue sky is so commonplace that it is taken for granted".[1]

One can go on to add:

The poet Robert W. Service says "while the blue sky bends above/You've got nearly all that matters".[2] Songwriter Irving Berlin wrote of "Blue Skies smiling at me," airmen fly into the wild blue yonder.

But the sky is not always blue. In the Bible, Jesus says to the Pharisees "When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red".[3] A naturalist notes that "At twilight, salmon reds, oranges, purples, white-yellows, and many shades of blue can be seen."[4] And songwriter Oscar Hammerstein wrote of "when the sky is a bright canary yellow."[5]

It took me less than ten minutes to turn up the Schaeffer and Minnaert sources and another fifteen to find the rest. If something is really a commonly known fact, it is just not that hard to source.

Brag listEdit

Significant contributor to:

VfD rescues (I did significant editing of these pages subsequent to their having been listed on Votes for Deletion)

A book reference template exampleEdit

(for my own cut-and-paste use)

{{cite book | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | year = | title = '''REQUIRED''' | publisher = | location = | id = ISBN }}

{{gutenberg|no=2383|name=The Canterbury Tales and Other Poems ''by Geoffrey Chaucer'}}


Parish of Christ Church/Iglesia de San Juan


RFC1 Bates method articleEdit

Dpbsmith. About the google test on Bates method and Natural vision improvement. I have got another result. How did get your 20000 versus 40000 result ? regards, Seeyou (talk) 18:45, 5 October 2008 (UTC)

  1. ^ Schaefer, Vincent J.; Day, John A. (1998). A Field Guide to the Atmosphere. Houghton Mifflin Field Guides. ISBN 0395976316. p. 155
  2. ^ Service, Robert (1940). Collected Poems of Robert Service. G. P. Putnam's Sons. ISBN 0-399-15015-3., "Comfort," p. 67
  3. ^ The Bible, Matthew 16:2 (King James version)
  4. ^ Minnaert, M. G. J. (1993) [1974]. Light and Colour in the Outdoors. Springer-Verlag. ISBN 0-387-97935-2. p. 295
  5. ^ Bauch, Marc. American Musical. Tectum Verlag. ISBN 382888458X. p. 42