CZ:Proposals/Pilot to allow Citizens to take credit for pages/Archive 1

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Previous discussions

In Nov 2006 Andrea Moro wrote:

{snip!] The point I am trying to make is that a quality encyclopedia not only has to be certified by "experts" but also has to attract the best writers. Different types of academic work is recognized and rewarded, not only original, peer reviewed work. Any work where knowledge is disseminated is valuable to the academic author and to the university or institution that employe him or her. The problem with wikipedia is that it is very hard to recognize who did what in an article. Would it be possible to think of a way to recognize authoship of articles? Clearly an article has dozens of contributors, but there is a difference between those that do typesettings, and others who do the research and writing. One possibility is that the expert "certifier" upon certification, whenever possible also attributes the authorship to those that provided the most important contribution (perhaps in decreasing order of contribution, as some scientific disciplines do). It might also mention the others that heped with minor edits, typesetting, and so on...

The point of all this is to provide incentives for academics and experts to write and improve the quality of the articles. With the current model, academics have no incentives to contribute except goodwill…..

Replies were:

…I believe the governing idea is that there will be no article attribution on CZ, beyond what can be found in the History page. The main reason for this (which I agree with) is the tendency to be more reluctant to change an article "belonging" to another contributor.
Simon Rustad
The problem with attributing an article to a specific person, or even ranking all the people, is that it's nearly impossible to do…..
Zach Prukowski
….I showed a printout of approved CZ Horizontal gene tranfer article to a successful colleague. He started looking for the authors name. I asked him why and he replied: to check whether its worth taking seriously. ie credibility.
David Tribe

In January 2007 Tom Kelly opened a discussion about the way articles were written and edited, and how to reasurre people that their edits mattered. After some back-and-forth about how regular authors were just as smart as PhDs, it very quickly turned to discussing crediting of authors.

Points were:

“It's about contributing, it's about acquiring many competent people for CZ and it's about brandmarking CZ.” Sebatian Breitschaft. He went on to say that it was too difficult to see who had written and approved CZ articles, and suggested how this could be done. He said that the advantages to CZ would be consistent quality and incentive for authors.

Steve Ewen supported the idea, Paul James Cowie suggested using the wikitravel system, where a list of contributors appears at the end of the article, Jason Potkanski discussed some technical methods. Markus Baumeister supported the idea because it would give academics incentive, and pointed out that we would need to avoid people doing edits just to get to the top of the list.

Larry Sanger began this January 2007 thread in response to a Slashdot article that asked why unsigned articles and why allow anyone to edit.

Larry outlined why uncredited work and open contribution is essential for the success of the wiki.

An author called “Bennett” made a case for attribution.

David Goodman said that although wikis were supposed to be an improvement on the traditional editing model, what we were seeing was esstentially a traditional approach. Chris Day suggested that this was because most of us come from and are familiar with traditional models, but this would likely change as people got used to the wiki format and our numbers increased.

Anthony Sebastian proposed: Regarding the issue of crediting authors/editors of CZ articles:

  • Consider a non-editable tabbed subpage entitled "contributors".
  • Keep an automatically updated list of all contributors, in order of the date of their first contribution, or in alphabetical order.
  • Asterisk, or otherwise highlight, 'major' contributors--'major' in respect of volume of work or of importance of contribution.
  • Editor(s) who approved the article responsible for who gets asterisked or highlighted.
  • Since ongoing process; list of contibutors page should indicate date last updated.

This might satisfy everyone or none. Others may wish to suggest modifications of this idea, or different ideas.

Larry said he “might be able to get behind this. If it would help motivate people, without dismotivating collaboration, I'd be in favor of it.”. Greg Woodhouse encouraged him to think about it. Anthony Agryriou spoke to the difference between authoring and copyediting.

In March 2007 Anthony Sebastian amended his idea and suggested that alpha order would work better than asterisks for major supporters. Larry repeated that he generally liked the idea and might be in favour, but implementing the idea would need technical support and this would probably have to wait in a queue. Others supported. Thomas Simmons suggested we might consider noting the type of contribution.


I'd be delighted if anyone would like to take this one on as driver. If not, I'll drive it on... --Larry Sanger 22:22, 12 February 2008 (CST)

A few questions:

  • Would Citizens be permitted to add other Citizens to the author list? For example, if Citizen A and B mostly write an article and Citizen C adds a comma, could Citizen A add Citizen C as an author to raise the number of authors over 3 and hence get credit for their work?
  • What happens if 100 people edit a popular article and all ask for credit? That won't happen during the proposed few-month pilot, but that would be an issue eventually as Citizendium grows.

With the current Citizens, I think this proposal would achieve its goals. However, I fear this proposal won't scale well.

  • Currently, if someone were to game the system and claim credit for a comma-fixing spree, people would notice and get annoyed. As the number of Citizens grows, more interactions will be with strangers, so gaming the authorship system will become more attractive.
  • As we scale, we'll get a lot more immature people of various sorts who are more likely to game the system. If as few as one in a thousand Citizens decide that claiming authorship for as many articles as possible is a fun game to play, the credit system would become worthless since the fake authors would drown out the real ones. Writing a good article takes days, but one can add a comma to a different article each minute!

--Warren Schudy 23:20, 12 February 2008 (CST)

  • Authors should be given credit according to how much approved additional content is added to the article. If there is an argument over authorship content, there should be some admin mechanism in place to resolve the issue. I think the idea of getting credit by just adding commas, is open to abuse. Meg Ireland 23:30, 12 February 2008 (CST)
  • I'm not in favour of it. I believe it diverts attention from the critical task of creating and editing articles. Any time spent squabbling over credit would be a time waster. If anyone wants to see authorship they can just check the History page. From what I can see, the problem with CZ is just a dire lack of people who are actively editing. I see the same names every day, there's like a dozen or so and that's it. If I thought this proposal would make a difference in attracting and keeping contributors, I'd be all for it. I'm just don't. My two cents, Shawn Goldwater 23:40, 12 February 2008 (CST)

The only way this is tenable is if a small group is authorized to determine authorship, and only of approved articles, and it were very clear that authorship of one version of an approved article does not equal ownership over succeeding versions (entire re-writes are even possible). Overall, I strongly believe crediting writers would add considerable fuel to CZ's growth, especially with a possible knol arriving on the scene where crediting to authors is a prominent feature. To me, carefully crediting authors of versions of approved articles is a wholly reasonable extension of the real-names policy. It will provide 1) the needed incentive for many people to overcome the barrier of using their real names in an otherwise open wiki project; 2) greater incentive for high quality contributions by authors (including Eduzendium students), since they can use their contributions as additions to their resumes; and, 3) greater incentive for expert involvement for the same basic reasons as with authors.

However, the following should be struck from the proposal. Below I use "discriminatory" to mean "results in an injustice", each which creates problems much more severe than any problem the caveats are surmised to head-off.

  • "List the contributors to an article strictly in alphabetical order." - this is discriminatory and thus a disincentive against people who actually do the work and against or for people based upon mere family name (its placement in the alphabet). Instead, have a small group of people who actually mine the contributions of an article just prior its approval and make determinations about who actually did the writing, in order of importance.
  • "Names would appear only if there were three names in the list" - again, this discriminatory against and thus a disincentive against people who have specialist knowledge, Eduzendium students, and individuals who submit an initial wiz-bang article on a topic (e.g., Symphony). Just trust that collaboration will happen in most instances, instead. There is no need to try to so tightly control all these details.
  • "To avoid issues about what counts as an "important" edit, a person could take co-authorship credit for the very smallest of edits" - yet again, this is discriminatory and thus a disincentive against people who actually do the hard work of writing. Nowhere in the publishing world are trivial changes considered co-authorship and CZ should not spearhead the construction of such a false idea. Instead, the phrase "and other Citizendium contributors" should be added to the credit line to cover trivial edits.
  • "limited just to, say, the Biology and History workgroups" - instead, it should be limited to approved articles (both in a pilot and always), whatever they are.

Other comments:

  • "There would be a small notice wherever the template appears that pithily conveys the notion that, despite our having listed these names, the article is wide open and available to work on by any Citizen." - this should be just below the credit line, which should appear at the bottom of the article.
  • The approving editor(s) should have placement as such within the credit line.

Stephen Ewen 02:46, 13 February 2008 (CST)

I like the idea of giving some credit on the article page. I agree with what was said above about it possibly adding more incentive for others to join, and to use their real name. But, I don't like the idea of giving authorship credit for small changes/edits. Since the system keeps track of how large an edit is, maybe there would be some way of adding credit only when x number of bytes were contributed to the article (maybe 2k?). This, I think, will allow the proposal to scale as CZ grows. Just my $.02. Joshua Knapp 05:49, 13 February 2008 (CST)

I strongly disagree in giving credit for articles. I think we 'humble encyclopedists' should be like the men in the smoky backroom. Personally I don't want my name been plastered on the bottom of every article I've written on. Denis Cavanagh 06:47, 13 February 2008 (CST)

I disagree with this proposal, for many of the reasons stated above. We are here to create an encyclopedia and provide free, accurate data to the masses - not here to draw attention to ourselves and our individual efforts. I think this has the potential to de-emphisize teamwork, and promote arguements over article ownership. --Todd Coles 08:54, 13 February 2008 (CST)

Size limits for author credit won't work either. One can simply pull a large chunk out, and put it back in later to meet the substantial contribution limit, whatever size it is set to. Thus, it would need human eyes to gauge the contributions and that would be a waste of time, especially once hundreds of authors have worked on a large article. This is supposed to be an altrustic endeavor, not a claim to fame. David E. Volk 09:03, 13 February 2008 (CST)

I also never want my name on any article here in any circumstances. However I wouldn't want to absolutely disallow this, and if we don't do this then I think we might wish to find some other way of acknowledging particular authors in some circumstances (Eduzendium for instance). I would prefer the template to go on the Talk page though, but that's just a suggestion. I have no objection to a pilot. Gareth Leng 10:00, 13 February 2008 (CST)

I like Stephen's proposal to have authorship determined by editors when approval is done a lot better than counting every comma. However, I don't like the idea of sorting authors by importance of their edits. In my field (theoretical Computer Science), authors of papers are given alphabetically to avoid the bad feelings of importance sorting. I think authors should be sorted by some mechanical means such as alphabetical, date of first edit or random. Alphabetical is often used in academia, so that's my first choice. We could do a hybrid such as displaying the names in random order but ask people to cite the article using alphabetical order, but I don't think that's worth the confusion.

I don't think Larry's proposal would work long-term for reasons I stated previously on this page, but I think Stephen's proposal is worth a trial in a few workgroups. Warren Schudy 10:36, 13 February 2008 (CST)

You have to remember that in academia the only reason why there is credit is because papers are submitted under the guise of some original research or observation; here we synthesize aggregated information into a single referencial document which is vastly different. We are not research scientists in that sense; but we must have some level of scientific knowledge to disseminate our sources for inclusion. I used to believe that we should receive credit for this work, but now I'm not so sure. I think it's more important to recognize those who have certain knowledge in areas to produce a better article on a subject they know about. --Robert W King 10:50, 13 February 2008 (CST)
Well, Robert, if you recall the premise that there is no original research in the sense of "research paper" has been seriously challenged in the forums. In fact, the way CZ articles are currently being written is indeed in the form of research papers. Papers are getting more and more specifically research and academically-oriented (Eduzendium, for example). People start out to prove thesis topics. I find the "no original research" idea extremely baffling in this confused environment, and I doubt that I am the only one. Aleta Curry 15:43, 13 February 2008 (CST)

My general comments:

  • This has been debated ad infinitum on the forums. There is great support for a credit system of some sort. I know it is time-consuming for people to do some back reading, but it is equally time-consuming, as well as boring, extremely frustrating, off-putting and disrespectful for people who have been talking time out from their busy schedules for months crafting carefully thought-out lucid arguments to be asked to do it all over again.
  • I would like to think that we can expect CZ editors and authors to take the moral high ground here. I'm stunned by some of the comments--do ethics not count? People should have enough personal integrity, self-worth and a sense of fair play NOT to want to take credit for that which they have not earned. I would have thought it would be overwhelmingly apparent that one should not take authorship credit for drive-by editing of any sort.
If my personal conviction that we are all above that sort of thing is misplaced, then we should separate the "credit boxes" into "authors" and "editors". Those who want credit for a comma or two can list themselves under "editors".
  • I think Stephen's point about discrimination against people with expert knowledge is an important and valid one. It deserves due consideration.
  • People who object to their names appearing in any sort of credit form can simple elect NOT to have their names appear. This is not rocket science, folks.

Aleta Curry 15:43, 13 February 2008 (CST)

Aleta, I had no idea that this has been previously debated on some other forum. I didn't see any indication on this proposal page that I was supposed to refer elsewhere. I won't be contributing to any more of these discussions. As an author rather an editor, my comments aren't needed. cheers, Shawn Goldwater 16:00, 13 February 2008 (CST)
Wait a second, Shawn, there is no reason to get huffy. I did not mean to imply that new participants should just know somehow that there has been prior discussion.
Let me say this another way: I personally am frustrated by having to revisit the same territory over and over. I would like very much if we can cross-reference some of the previous threads and ask our newcomers to extend themselves to reading over some of the old comments. I recognize that this is a dull and mundane thing for people to have to do.
I don't have a clue as to why you think that "As an author rather an editor, my comments aren't needed." Who said that??? Everyone's comments are welcome/needed/appreciated/ at any time.
Aleta Curry 16:10, 13 February 2008 (CST)

I added a section on "previous discussions" with various forum threads I found searching for "credit". However, I haven't *read* those posts yet. It would help if someone summarized the points made in those threads. Warren Schudy 19:24, 13 February 2008 (CST)

Thanks, Warren. I have a meeting in a scant three hours that I haven't read the working papers for yet. I am therefore out of time and can't deal with this now. However, if no one has summarised the points raised by tomorrow, I shall. Aleta Curry 22:59, 13 February 2008 (CST)

You could feel free to do so in the Reasoning section above, for me, Aleta. But I will have to qualify some of the arguments, or add some arguments in favor of certain elements of my proposal (alphabetical listing, for even the smallest edits, only after three people have edited the page). --Larry Sanger 23:07, 13 February 2008 (CST)

I am not enthusiastic about copy-edits, for example, being credited. The inclusion of these, along with the exclusion of articles authored by one or two people, means that this is actually a statement of collaboration rather than a statement of authorship. Somehow, I doubt that this will satify anyone. Martin Baldwin-Edwards 23:41, 13 February 2008 (CST)

The best suggestion I read was that the approving editor write the citation for the article and would apportion credit. If the approving editor wants to give credit for copy-edits, then fine. Only approved articles should have names attached. The citation should be grievable. Personally, I don't think authors should add their own names to a citation. --Russell D. Jones 06:01, 14 February 2008 (CST)

"Statement of collaboration" vs. "statement of authorship" is an interesting distinction. I'm not sure I get it entirely, but if I do, I would say that I'm opposed to statements of authorship on principle. The main reason for this is that it encourages people to consider themselves exclusive owners: and if there isn't that implication, then what is the difference between a "collaborator" and an "author"? We don't need no steekin' authors, who proudly protect their turf and bark at strangers. This is very essentially a collaborative project. --Larry Sanger 07:00, 14 February 2008 (CST)

Well, I am all for the collaboration. My personal feeling is that I don't want or expect credit for the articles that I copy-edited; I am ambivalent about the [few] articles on which I have been a main author. I can understand, though, why some of our authors would appreciate credit where it is due. Perhaps a solution would be to identify roles? I am not sure about this idea, but merely offer it. On a different point, Russell has just commented on one of the ideas we had discussed: why not limit it to Approved articles? 'Twould be far less controversial, methinks...Martin Baldwin-Edwards 14:58, 14 February 2008 (CST)
I understand and appreciate Larry's core concern here but really think it is out of proportion to the need for actual concern. The way to see is to try a pilot along the lines as I've outlined above. The proof will be in the pudding. Should I create an alternative proposal? I'm apparently still unclear about how this system new works. Stephen Ewen 15:28, 14 February 2008 (CST)

I am somewhat concerned that this proposal may be intentionally "neutered" as to coherce the results of the pilot. I suspect it may not be given the full detail it deserves, in order to attain a "real" conclusion. --Robert W King 21:12, 9 March 2008 (CDT)

Robert's comment re implementation

For what it's worth--I've written a visual basic program that uses IE as a web interface to parse the HTML code in a given article to pull out some revision history data and save it into a text file. I wrote it sort of as a "proof of concept" in case this ever came around, however it would probably need more work. (it's also a lil buggy in terms of what edits are saved; there some error checking that needs to be built in) It can be done.

My idea was to programmatically convert edits into bytes for each user, sort by the amount of total bytes edited (obviously doing a comparison between edits to ensure there just isn't a big copy-paste) and then randomize the end result a little bit by some kind of seed value based on the total article size so you wouldn't able to determine what the actual percent of contribution was, but it would still provide a rough figure. --Robert W King 14:43, 14 February 2008 (CST)

Thanks, Robert. I'll write the implementation procedure for my own proposal. I'll certainly consider yours, but if it doesn't actually implement the policy I favor, I probably won't want to use it. --Larry Sanger 15:45, 14 February 2008 (CST)

Reaction to #Reasoning

Oh, now, really. If you've already decided, what are we doing?
Before I start arguing with you about specifics, I feel compelled to say that I think you're doing the majority of us a very grave injustice.
You have said, Larry, that you expect to this project to attract (and keep?) the best of the best. Then you say that due to the very nature of human beings, we cannot be trusted to demonstrate morality and maturity. WRONG!
If you ask me (you didn't, but that won't stop me) the positions that have been presented show intelligent thought, honest responses and a desire to do what's best both for oneself and, I repeat AND for the project. We have people who have stated that they will NEVER seek or accept credit for their contributions, (I do not share their view but I absolutely admire their ideal) people who might accept credit under certain circumstances, people who will not seek credit if they believe their contribution is minor, people who will not accept credit for copyediting. People are thoughtfully considering what will and will not work, what might and might not cause problems for CZ. You have not crediting any of us with ethical thought but have lumped us all into this single category of greedy, selfish, disingenuous oafs and in my not-terribly-humble opinion that's just...well, it's...well, it is!
Larry, you are the editor-in-chief and to a very real extent what you say goes. If you do not wish to be engaged on this proposal, why are we taking time out on it? Just say you're implementing your proposal on a trial basis and there's no need for discussion. I'm not being sarcastic; I'm serious. I've had a long week that's not over yet and I'm not willing to waste my time arguing about a decision that's already been made--what purpose does that serve? Let's have done.
Aleta Curry 17:02, 14 February 2008 (CST)

I've decided that this is the only version of this sort of proposal that I can support; but that doesn't mean it's simply up to me. After all, the proposal could well be shot down (and I wouldn't be terribly broken up if it were, to be honest). I could see doing more only incrementally, and only after people had demonstrated all the virtue that you so graciously impute to them, but which I in my growing cynicism do not always see. I'm not about to plunge headfirst into the deep end, as certain people seem to want us to do.  :-)

I am not mainly concerned about the motives of the people in this debate, so please do not attempt to reply to my argument by saying, "But we're your friends and we're so virtuous!" Please...I'm not doing you (any of you) any "grave injustice." I am concerned about the problem cases (which will exist even if they involve none of you) and the long term, which are exactly the sort of things that one must think about in policymaking.

Besides, Aleta, my argument isn't just a cynical one; I don't just say, "People are selfish and they will start competing with each other terribly." That's only part of the problem. The other part--and it might be larger, if the Encyclopedia of Earth experience is indicative--is that we are too nice. So, once our names go on articles, other people seeing the names there, will think, "Oh, OK...I'd better not get involved here, see Mr. Impressive College Professor and Ms. Wonderful Professional Writer are already's their article." You and I might see that this is wrong, but we cannot engineer how people will react to and use our system. Rather, we have to design the system with typical (and the most disruptive permissible) reactions uppermost in mind. --Larry Sanger 18:58, 14 February 2008 (CST)

Well, Larry, at least you've got me laughing. Responding to your paragraphs separately and in order:
This particular proposal may indeed be "shot down", since I don't see where it gives your virtuous friends all that much satisfaction. But that doesn't mean the issues raised will just go away. These are legitimate concerns, of major interest to a number of our learned companions, so it seems to me that the Indians will simply regroup and attack again.
Oh, but you are! And I never said that we were your friends. Okay, okay, I'm willing to allow that we're all your friends, but not that we're all so virtuous. My point was that we were not all so selfish, either. Look, the rest of the world sees the style of your argument as a very American one. I don't know if that's fair, I'm not a philosopher, but Americans do tend to argue in extremes: if we take ABC to the Nth degree, XYZ *might* happen, so we have to jettison the entire idea at the start. Of course "problem cases" will exist--so?!
You're doing it again. We're not *all* so nice! We're not all deferent, we're not all easily intimidated. Some of us are bombastic, some are egotistical, some are iconoclastic. Some will see Mr Impressive College Professor as past it and Ms Wonderful Professional Writer as staid and do everything they can to confront. You simply cannot equate what is typical and what is most disruptive.
Your virtuous friend, Aleta Curry 16:05, 15 February 2008 (CST)
Well, the strength of my argument, my dear virtuous friend, does not rest on overgeneralizations. This is ironic, because overgeneralization is a rhetorical move you so kindly stereotype Americans for making. Hmm.  ;-)
Policy is made in reaction to problem cases. This is why, for example, there are predictable calls to ban firearms in the United States after every mass shooting: we want to avoid such "problem cases" altogether. Closer to home, CZ has adopted (provisionally) a dispute resolution system largely in reaction to a fairly small number of disputes.
I've argued that if we were to credit people according to the amount they contribute, this would have the dual effect of making already aggressive people more so, e.g., shooing other people away from "their" articles; and making less aggressive people more deferential and more apt to "ask permission" (in effect, not literally) to work on an article from the "leading" authors. These are both already problems (think of how a certain editor who shall remain nameless "guards" "his" articles). In fact one of our recent proposals goes a small way to solving the latter problem (i.e., the one about not requiring people to "ask for permission first" before making major edits). Indeed, probably the best explanation I've seen for why certain classes of people do not edit so much on Wikipedia and CZ is that it requires a certain sort of aggressiveness.
Now, when I make this argument, I am not saying that everyone on CZ is aggressive, or that everyone is a creampuff. People have different ways of reacting to the same policies. What I do say is that the likely reaction is that work on articles will be less collaborative and more "silo'd."
I should probably add another whole argument to the above, an argument from culture. While we do recognize the knowledge of experts, here on CZ, and are to that extent less than perfectly egalitarian, in another respect we are very egalitarian, and this is essential to our success: we are strongly collaborative. In particular, our community is right now, in fact very much committed to the proposition that no one owns any article, that we have equal rights to change them or work on them--although, given the prerogatives of experts, not necessarily equal rights to make decisions in case of disputes, or to guide the general plan of an article. If we start differentially rewarding people for their authorship, some significant portion of these people, and perhaps everyone to one degree or other, will begin to think of articles on which they are credited as the main author as "their" articles. This would likely change our culture, and that's something you do at our peril. I really wish someone would try to address this objection head-on. I suspect that no one does, because no one can.
Just having your name there in lights, above other people's, will get you more invested in the article, more defensive about it, and will also make other people less apt to contribute. Why? Many reasons, all having to do with the culture of credit: they won't get the main credit, for one thing, and so they're working for your glory. Who wants to do that? And again, many won't want to touch "your work," that's your responsibility after all don't you know. They might be so bold as to offer you advice on the talk page, but since you're the main author, you'd be responsible for taking their advice, or not. Already we suffer from too much of the latter. Just think, to take one interesting example, of how you all regard the CZ community pages: I wrote them and so you treat them as "mine," and you don't want to do work on them because you think you might be stepping on my toes. Can you imagine what it would be like if my name were on those pages as the author? And once again, this is not speculation. I've seen this happen on the Encyclopedia of Earth and in other wikis. It's better if we do not flirt with the culture of credit at all, and instead remain firmly committed to the culture of collaboration.
Again, if you disagree with these arguments, I wish you would attack them head-on. Or, if you think someone else has done so elsewhere, could you please call my attention to the discussion? I don't want to say that I have all the answers, but I do say that this is really, really important--shutting down the collaborative engine that runs CZ would be an unmitigated disaster. It seems to me that some of us are running willy-nilly to do so, without believing or understanding how they are. --Larry Sanger 15:35, 16 February 2008 (CST)
Bennett Haselton echoed last year a lot of what Aleta has said. See Stephen Ewen 00:31, 16 February 2008 (CST)
Big deal...  :-) He's clever, but I don't think he understands wikis as well as he thinks he does. --Larry Sanger 15:35, 16 February 2008 (CST)
solution: ask people to sign in only if they claim to have contributed 5% of the substance of the article. Those are the only ones who should be getting credit, and in general we can trust people regarding the 5% cutoff. (Although I recall an international food fair in Chicago. There were booths for all the countries of Europe, each with a national flag and a map of their historic territory. You could add the maps together and get about twice the area of Europe. But I don't see that as a problem.) Richard Jensen 16:46, 16 February 2008 (CST)

Here's a variant of Larry's proposal based on Richard Jensen's proposal. Replace the following lines in Larry's proposal

  1. Names would appear only if there were three names in the list.
  2. To avoid issues about what counts as an "important" edit, a person could take co-authorship credit for the very smallest of edits (e.g., removing commas).


  1. Names would appear only if there were two names in the list.
  2. Citizens are instructed to take credit only if they feel they have contributed at least 5% of the effort to the article (including non-writing tasks). To avoid nasty arguments, one may not challenge a Citizen's claim of credit. If a Citizen displays a pattern of claiming credit for articles that they unambiguously did not contribute sufficiently to, the Constabulary may take action.

"Author" already has meanings in Citizendium and in academia, so I propose we use some other word, such as "contributor". --Warren Schudy 18:40, 16 February 2008 (CST)

Warren has an excellent formula! Richard Jensen 19:00, 16 February 2008 (CST)
Works for me. This seems so reasonable, and the referring to Constabulary rather than challenging bit is a really good addition. Aleta Curry 23:06, 16 February 2008 (CST)
I think it's much better to have a third party do the "who wrote?" issue and keep this ONLY to approved articles, for reasons already stated. Stephen Ewen 23:36, 16 February 2008 (CST)
I disagree. We are going to sit here forever going back and forth with how to decide "who wrote". Larry has me pretty much convinced why this should not be limited to approved articles, though I was leaning that way anyway. If we have a fair system, there's really no need for such limitation. Besides, I thought the goal here was to provide incentive? We really need to avoid the kind of meaningless competition WP has fallen prey to. Aleta Curry 00:58, 17 February 2008 (CST)
Larry's created a strawman, a meaningless competition, and filled it. No one cares about credit for non-approved articles, and no one ever has. And no one has ever brought up this as a means to competition but him. Stephen Ewen 13:52, 17 February 2008 (CST)
Well, I don't think it's a straw man at all. I've laid out in some detail the reasons competitiveness on wikis exists; and you yourself engage in it regularly, Steve, and it's no great insult to say so, either. So my point deserves less perfunctory treatment. Why do you claim that no one cares about credit for non-approved articles? I think that many people do care about such credit, and some are asking for it even here on this page. We've seen many instances in which people discuss the desirability of credit of all sorts. I've also received a few mails from scholars who have said, in essence, "You've got an interesting idea, but I couldn't get involved because I need credit." They did not say "for approved articles only; I don't need credit for unapproved articles." Moreover, if we were to give them such credit, they would want it all the more. And if we were to offer people credit just for approved articles, they would suddenly be clamoring for credit for unapproved articles--based on my long experience working with people online, I have to say that that's just obvious to me.
A few of the people who are suggesting that we give credit only for approved articles couple this with the suggestion that only editors apportion out this credit. But this means that they are conceiving of the practice of giving credit as conferring special individual distinctions, setting some authors up above others. That is simply not a proposal I am willing to take seriously. The only proposal along those lines I have heard that I might be able to support is one that Lee and I developed some months ago; we said that we might recognize someone for having written the first draft of an article, after it had been approved, and we might do that on a separate page altogether, just so people could put CZ article drafts on their CV. Similar to Warren's "weird variant." --Larry Sanger 22:38, 19 February 2008 (CST)

I agree that this should concern only approved articles. For a start, the changing nature of any unapproved article makes the concept of who contributed to it meaningless unless it is updated every day. Martin Baldwin-Edwards 13:59, 17 February 2008 (CST)

the approval process does not yet work: we have only 49 approved articles! We can shift to an "approved articles only" policy when we have at least 1000 of them. Richard Jensen 14:10, 17 February 2008 (CST)

Your reply is a non-sequitur, Richard, Furthermore, a small pilot project is a far better way to test contentious proposals. Martin Baldwin-Edwards 16:46, 17 February 2008 (CST)

I can see how it follows. The point is that it won't be much of a pilot project at all if we limit ourselves to just a handful of articles. What can we prove (or disprove) with 50 articles?

Also, Martin, you say, "For a start, the changing nature of any unapproved article makes the concept of who contributed to it meaningless unless it is updated every day." I don't get this. If so-and-so contributed to the article, he remains a contributor, unless his contributions are all deleted; but that's a special case. I don't suppose I can expect you to have read everything I wrote above, but I want to make the point that it will work greatly contrary to the collaborative spirit of the wiki if we make distinctions among contributors. If we do not care about making such distinctions, beyond a very basic level (two sentences, 5%, whatever), then we can say: once a contributor, always a contributor. --Larry Sanger 22:38, 19 February 2008 (CST)

Weird variant

This proposal has two goals: rewarding contributers, and giving articles credibility based on their authors. I propose we use separate mechanisms to achieve these two goals.

For credibility:

  • put the names of the approving editors in the approved-page version of the subpages template

For rewarding contributers:

  • Upon approval, the approving editors decide on a list of authors.
  • This list of authors of a given article is not displayed anywhere. However, the "user contributions" page includes a list of approved articles a given user has authored.
  • When people cite Citizendium articles, the author list should simply read "Citizendium contributors" or something like that. People can indicate on their CVs that the exact author list is hidden by CZ policy and link to our explanation of why, but give a link to the user contribution page so that people can verify the person in question is among the authors of the articles they claim to have authored.

With these proposals, whether an article has one author or seventeen has no effect on ones CV or on-wiki prestige, so there's no reason to guard ones article from other Citizens. --Warren Schudy 10:37, 15 February 2008 (CST)

Very intriguing, Warren...I will have to think about this. --Larry Sanger 11:41, 15 February 2008 (CST)

A very interesting discussion. This is mainly about CVs, right? There is plenty of information available to an employer, in article histories and user contributions, without articles needing to be credited. I think it would be a dodgy distraction. Ro Thorpe 16:36, 16 February 2008 (CST)
Employers are way too lazy to do that. Tenure committees are more thorough than employers, but even for them spending 10 hours evaluating the contributions of an active Citizen is too much to ask. Warren Schudy 18:15, 16 February 2008 (CST)
Employers are way too lazy to check other CV items too. Just as long as it's there & verifiable...Ro Thorpe 18:45, 16 February 2008 (CST)
in the academic world claiming false credit is very dangerous. People get fired for that--even university presidents. Richard Jensen 12:36, 17 February 2008 (CST)
Any thoughts on this "weird variant"? I seems like it would accomplish the goal of motivating people without causing competition. Warren Schudy 23:33, 5 March 2008 (CST)

Larry's recent changes and comments

I think Larry's recent comments about "culture of credit" (in the "reasoning" section) are important. If my 5%/at least two proposal were adopted, if someone wrote 5% of an article that previously had two authors and then took credit for that, this would probably be looked down on a bit as unfair. Under Larry's 2 sentence/at least 5 proposal, taking credit for two sentences might be viewed positively, as it would help break the 5-author barrier. If authors spent some time encouraging other authors to come edit "their" articles to get 5 authors, that might be a good thing.

Under Larry's proposal, there would be such a wide variety in the amount of work involved in getting credited that the list of articles someone has authored would be essentially worthless as a means of evaluating people's contributions to Citizendium (e.g. for tenure).

I see three general options:

  1. Don't credit authors.
  2. Credit authors in a way that is too imprecise for evaluation purposes.
  3. Credit authors in a way that is an accurate enough measure of one's contribution to allow its use in tenure decisions. Accept a risk that Citizendium's culture will move towards an academic "culture of credit".

Larry's proposal is in the imprecise category. I suspect this compromise is worse than either alternative. I bet an imprecise crediting system would reduce contributions by interfering with the altruistic feelings more than it would help contributions by offering selfish reasons to contribute.

There is insufficient support for precise crediting for such a proposal to happen, I think. I therefore conclude that we should not credit authors at all.

I do think we should state the names of approving editors, not to credit their work, but rather to improve the credibility of approved articles.

--Warren Schudy 13:52, 17 February 2008 (CST)

There's a serious flaw with a percentage-based authorship boundary, namely the fact that the overall effort of the article changes as time goes on, so contributers would need to remove themselves sometimes. How about requiring 250 words of first-draft-quality text or equivalent effort? --Warren Schudy 13:52, 17 February 2008 (CST)

Warren is of course correct on the flaw in %. I agree with his 250 word cutoff. Authorship at this level is serious enough to include in a CV or application to graduate school/law school. At the Assistant Professor level, writing enycyclopdia articles will not help a career at Yale, but it will help at thousands of smaller schools where the dean demands annual evidence of scholarly activity. (My wife, by the way, has been a dean at several small schools.)Richard Jensen 14:01, 17 February 2008 (CST)
Authorship at this level is serious enough to include in a CV or application to graduate school/law school. Of course it is. At least one CZer has recently used his CZ experience to help get a job. And even where that would not be helpful for a paid job, it might sway the balance in getting an important internship. And we all know where a good internship can get you. Further, let's not forget about those EZer getting university credit. So, okay, you say, their profs check the edit history. But wouldn't it help when they apply for jobs later? Really, there are some good reasons for this. Aleta Curry 14:38, 17 February 2008 (CST)
One can produce a first-draft of 250 words in an hour or less. For example, my post that started this section ("I think Larry's recent comments ...credibility of approved articles.") is 291 words. A publication (in Computer Science at least) is around 5000 words and takes weeks to months of full-time work. Biology is also about 5000 words. Approved-quality words probably take at least 5 times as long as first-draft words, so by my "250 words of first-draft-quality text or equivalent effort" standard someone could claim credit for 1/100th of the work that went into Biology. If we want authorship usable for CVs, I'd suggest a standard of at least 1500 first-draft-quality words. See NP_complexity_class for an article I made which is 1300 first-draft-quality words and is therefore almost ready for me to claim authorship. Fifteen-hundred first-draft-quality words corresponds to roughly 300 approved words, so by this standard one would need to do about 1/20th of Biology to qualify. --Warren Schudy 15:29, 17 February 2008 (CST)
I'm reviewing all comments just now...just observe the slippery slope in action here! First it was "no credit for copyedits"; then "no credit for just two sentences"; then "no credit for just 5%"; then "no credit for 250 words"; then it's 1500 first-draft-quality words! I couldn't have illustrated my point better than you did here on this discussion page itself! ROTFL! --Larry Sanger 11:49, 29 February 2008 (CST)
It all depends. The great New Yorker writer A.J. Leibling, who wrote about boxing, eating, and other topics, including reporting on WWII from Europe, once wrote: "I can write faster than anyone who writes better, and better than anyone who writes faster." I used to say the same thing,jokingly, until I thought of Bob Silverberg over in Oakland.... So I don't think we can reduce it to arbitrary definitions. Hayford Peirce 16:21, 17 February 2008 (CST)
we're talking about enyclopedia entries not scholarly journal articles. Lots of encyclopedia have word limits. For example on one paper encyclopedia I coedited in 2005 the great majority of articles were 500, 750 or 1000 words, with a few longer ones 1500 words. The contributors were paid $50 to $250 by the publisher (Gale) depending on length. The issue is not so much how many pages you publish, it's how much tolerance your readers have for long articles. Wikipedia for example has far too many very long articles that bury the information readers want. Less is more. Richard Jensen 15:43, 17 February 2008 (CST)
This is your opinion, Richard, and it is contrary to mine. Long articles are strongly to be preferred; the longer the better, until it makes sense to divide an article into a collection of related articles. The point is, I want as much valid information in CZ as people are willing to shovel into it, yes, even about decommissioned ships and video games. --Larry Sanger 22:59, 19 February 2008 (CST)
Further, we have and will continue to have approved articles with less than 1,000 words total. Some subjects are just...well, short, for lack of a better word. Aleta Curry 16:11, 17 February 2008 (CST)

Let me clarify something: by "first-draft-quality", I mean edited for spelling but not much else, like typical talk page posts. How about a standard of roughly 1500 unedited words or 250 approved words? (This proposal is of course predicated on us shooting for authorship that goes on CVs, which as I mentioned earlier I don't think there's sufficient support for to happen.)Warren Schudy 16:49, 17 February 2008 (CST)

Who decides the quality of a particular person's contributions? And are we to look down our noses at people who contribute "only" 150 words, just because some people want to get their CZ articles credited on their CVs? That sounds like a recipe for rancor and unpleasant, unnecessary bureaucratic decisionmaking.

Look, if it is simply a matter of taking credit for quantity of work done on a CZ article, official CZ recognition of your contribution is not really necessary. Only verifiability is, as someone said above. If you want to take credit for your CZ contributions, why aren't you doing so now? Is it only because your name isn't on the article? Well, if this proposal is implemented, you can put your name on the article. If your name on the article is not a big distinction, who cares? Why does authorship need to be a special distinction in order for you to credit yourself with your work on the article on your CV? Perhaps it's because you'll be embarrassed by all the other names that will be on the article, and thereby make your contribution look small. But do you now see my point about the culture of credit? You would resent your co-collaborators because you would be sharing credit with them!

The culture of credit can live on CZ. But it must take a role consistent with vigorous collaboration. So we should be willing to write letters to colleagues describing their CZ roles, and their work and its quality. We'll probably automate this eventually. Sooner, I hope, rather than later, because it could be a nice little inducement to academics to participate. Perhaps a Citizen could prepare a standard report of his activities on CZ, and then an editor could be asked to review and approve the report. If that wouldn't be useful on a CV, why think that a "250+ word, 'high-quality' contribution" to an article would be? --Larry Sanger 22:59, 19 February 2008 (CST)

after teaching history and political science to thousands of freshmen & sophomore US college students since 1966, I have discovered that the great majority are capable of writing a 250 word paper. In fact at RPI (where I had a grader), I required 8 papers a semester in the 250-500 word range and the kids came through just fine. Anyone capable of making a useful contribution to CZ is capable of writing 250 words. Richard Jensen 23:28, 19 February 2008 (CST)
I agree, Richard; but what's your point? --Larry Sanger 23:38, 19 February 2008 (CST)
I think 250 words is a good target to ask authors to hit if they want named credit. Less than that trivializes the status, and we want to encourage students and junior faculty to claim credit for working on CZ. For them to claim credit we have to give out credit (as by listing their names --perhaps on a subpage titled "significant contributors to this article". Richard Jensen 01:39, 20 February 2008 (CST)

Respectfully said, if we were to replace "credit" and "contribution" and "authorship" with "expert" and "expertise" in a lot of what Larry wrote above, it might just as well have been written by a staunch Wikipedian. But traditions have their reasons. Stephen Ewen 23:29, 19 February 2008 (CST)
Steve, I don't even know what you're trying to imply. It would help if you would spell it out, if you can. If you can't, I'll ignore it, because I don't understand it. --Larry Sanger 23:38, 19 February 2008 (CST)
One author's opinion: I am broadly against giving credit, mostly for reasons outlined by others elsewhere on this page. To those I'll add: 1) we already have the means to indicate authorship through the Talk pages and by a reader studying the history list; 2) on-line encyclopaedia articles don't tend to emphasise credit generally; 3) (possibly most important) we are still battling the misconception that this is an experts-only wiki. Adding credit will reinforce that view - to the casual reader, it may make it look like the authors are all expert authorities. Just my two pence. John Stephenson 01:18, 20 February 2008 (CST)
You've got a solid point with (3), John, but it's not really a knock-down argument, IMO. The danger can be mitigated with the appropriate notices/wording, I would hope. --Larry Sanger 07:59, 29 February 2008 (CST)
if two sentences makes on an author (and maybe two brush strokes an artist, or three pushups an athlete), then the status is laughingstock. Let's avoid the ridicule if we want to attract serious contributors. Richard Jensen 10:16, 29 February 2008 (CST)

You're right, Richard. We shouldn't label the people who are contributing as "authors," we should call them "contributors," which is a better description of the class of people we want to honor. For reasons explained above--I would love to see a serious, direct response to that--I don't think we should make the contribution to CZ articles a "distinction." To single out people who have made significant contributions to the article will have various ill effects: do have a look. I would require two sentences just to discourage the "credit hounds" from changing a comma and then claiming to be a contributor. --Larry Sanger 11:07, 29 February 2008 (CST)

I agree that contributor is a better word than author. I currently believe that we should scrap this proposal but encourage Citizens to write recommendation letters for each other describing their contributions. I'll write up my reasoning this evening perhaps. Warren Schudy 11:27, 29 February 2008 (CST)
Good idea. I imagine there could be a template to generate such letters automatically. Ro Thorpe 11:56, 29 February 2008 (CST)
Warren, don't write your reasoning, and don't even write a proposal: find a programmer. That would be really useful. Also, are you on Citizendium-Tools? If not, maybe you should be. I made a detailed proposal myself and asked for programming assistance, but no serious bites, I'm afraid. --Larry Sanger 12:00, 29 February 2008 (CST)
I joined cz-tools a few weeks ago, right before I posted there about reader feedback. I didn't get any bites at first, but Jitse replied today. So you may need to be patient. I don't see how automation would help the recommendation letter process, so I'm going to concentrate on finding a programmer for external feedback instead.
Please see my post there about requirements. It's not (just) for a recommendation letter "system," it is for a system that allows us to present statistics about our work on a personally-crafted page, designed for our own specific uses. Think of it as a powerful automated wiki "registrar" system, that allows you to selectively display your achievements. --Larry Sanger 22:06, 29 February 2008 (CST)
The brief version of my promised reasoning: some people want authorship for CV purposes, some people want no crediting system, and some want credit for minor contributions. We are naturally inclined to compromise on the intermediate position of on credit for minor contributions. Compromise is usually a good instinct, but in this case I think the compromise is worse than either alternative, as it risks hurting the collaborative culture with insufficient benefit to Citizen motivation. Warren Schudy 19:17, 29 February 2008 (CST)
Put another way: who thinks that a system of recognizing people who contribute 2 sentences will make CZ better? Warren Schudy 19:43, 29 February 2008 (CST)
I guess we'll find out, when the decisionmakers--the Editorial Council--take this up. You seem to think that the only reason one might have for supporting the proposal is that people "want authorship for CV purposes." But that's not the only reason. Indeed, I spelled out in excruciating detail what the reason I, at least, have: it is a small motivation or inducement for people to write. It also does help support the goal of CV credit: if you claim on your CV, "I wrote 75% of this article," and then people see your name on the article, that supports your claim.
Also, if I felt that giving credit in the very modest way I propose was a significant threat to our collaborative culture, I wouldn't have made the proposal. Indeed, the specific parameters I've set out are designed to minimize the threat; in particular, saying that a person can be credited only when there are four others being credited at the same time might actually motivate people to encourage collaboration more than is already happening. I'd expect that to happen, in fact. --Larry Sanger 22:06, 29 February 2008 (CST)

Richard's proposed amendment

Taken from CZ:Proposals/Editorial Council (which will include all Edit. Council proposals, not just this one).

proposed amendment (as discussed on talk page): replace To avoid issues about what counts as an "important" edit, a person could take co-authorship credit for the very smallest of edits (e.g., removing commas). with "A person can claim co-authorship by contributing 250 or more words." Rationale. We want authorship to be valuable in the academic world, and a reasonable minimum effort is essential or CZ coauthors will be laughed at. (In warfare, if everyone gets the Medal of Honor, then no one gets true recognition.)Richard Jensen 14:33, 17 February 2008 (CST)
I strongly support Richard's amendment for the reasons he stated. Stephen Ewen 13:13, 29 February 2008 (CST)

You keep saying X, and I keep arguing why I can't support X; and then you complain that I am not supporting X, without refuting my arguments. This is not constructive, Richard and Steve. If you want to persuade me, you are going to have to refute my arguments. Sorry, I'm difficult that way.  ;-)

I can, however, refute your own arguments here. Making a "250 word minimum" will not make authorship valuable in the academic world. Why do you think it would? After all, the effect of a 250 word minimum is to give authorship credit only to those people who who write 250+ words. That makes the list of authors smaller, limiting it to people who have written around one notebook page of stuff. Its sole effect is to exclude people who have contributed less. Why would excluding them make authorship valuable in the academic world? Answer: it wouldn't. Authorship would remain collaborative. Tenure and advancement committees would still not be able to tell what you had done and what others had done. The committees will remain extremely skeptical about the value of any contribution to such an open system. Why think that excluding the "lesser" contributors from credit would make them take the system any more seriously? I'm sure it wouldn't.

You say that "CZ coauthors will be laughed at." By whom? Not by the tenure and advancement committees: if they are told that it's a collaborative project, and that this is an exhaustive list of contributors, not authors, why should they expect that it will include only "major authors"? I'm not sure who else you think will be laughing at them. By the general public? Why should they laugh, if it's clear that this is a simply list of everyone who has made any contribution? What's funny about that?

Your analogy, "Medal of Honor," is extremely telling. (And making it, without any further comment, makes me suspect that you haven't come to grips with what I wrote above.) If you think that authorship recognition is something that should be given out like a "Medal of Honor" on a strongly collaborative project, that shows that you want authorship credit to be, specifically, a distinction. Tell me: why should it be? Not for tenure and advance committee credit. As I just explained, they won't care if there's a 250 word limit or not. Besides, you can report the number of your words, or what percentage you contributed, on your own damn CV, if you must.  ;-) Why not?

Besides, if we make a 250 word minimum, and given that only a few articles will have five contributors who contribute that much, only a few articles will get contributor lists. So you would have to add not just this amendment, but a further amendment that there should be no minimum number of authors. But then you have to confront certain other arguments made above, which I don't think anyone has yet done. --Larry Sanger 22:06, 29 February 2008 (CST)

I have sat on university-wide tenure and promotion committees (U of Illinois) and we looked carefully at every claimed publication for candidates from every department. Someone who claimed a 500 word book review did get credit (500 words is about the average book review in history). No one who claimed a mere 50 words would ever get credit, i'm pretty sure. If we trivialize the quantity needed to be an "author" we trivialize the award. Larry's language " on your own damn CV" suggests a deep distrust of academe, which is cointerproductive to CZ. The History page already lists everyone who has made a contribution so there is no need to have a special listing of people who have played very minor roles on an article, Instead if there is a cutoff they have an incentive to do some more work and reach the cutoff goal, which is what we really want. When my kids were young they were in sports "competitions" in which every one won a prize. By age 12 they were laughing at the system as childish. Richard Jensen 17:44, 6 March 2008 (CST)
I haven't made my mind up yet on this -- I see substance in both sides of the argument. One question that springs to mind, having been both a student for many years in which I was required to "write a paper of X number of pages", and later a pro. writer in which, for short stories, I was paid by the word, is that if there's a 250-word minimum, say, that it *may* tend to lead to some bloated writing by people who desperately want to get in under the wire. It's easy enough to say, "Well, in that case, someone else will just edit away the extra words." Which, in turn, could lead to acrimony and arguments. I don't say that this is a *major* concern, I just think that it *is* possible. Hayford Peirce 18:31, 8 March 2008 (CST)
A minimum is a guideline not a legalistic law. For short articles about to be approved, the person who would make the determination uses common sense! If the article is about to be locked with approval we should assume bloat has been killed. Stephen Ewen 18:39, 8 March 2008 (CST)
Hayford has a good point, but we do want to set goals that are reasonable. I taught many freshman history courses and always assigned 500 word papers. I discovered that the great majority of American college students can handle 500 words without excessive bloating, so the proposed 250 word target should be reasonable. Some history journals do publish 250 word book reviews by scholars which provide genuine credit (most journals have a 500 or 750 word limit.) Richard Jensen 19:29, 8 March 2008 (CST)

Richard wrote: "No one who claimed a mere 50 words would ever get credit, i'm pretty sure. If we trivialize the quantity needed to be an 'author' we trivialize the award."

My reply: you are still missing my point. My point is it would not make any sense for a person to put a certain article on his CV if he had contributed only 50 words to it. So it is the CV writer who is making the mistake, not the Citizendium contributor list, if the CV writer puts himself into the ridiculous mistake of taking credit for a 50 words contribution. You seem to be assuming that people will, or will be encouraged or "licensed" to, take "joint authorship credit" of an article for CV purposes if their names are listed in the contributor list. But why assume that?

Besides: the purpose of this proposal is not, as you assume, to honor the main authors so that they may get academic credit. That's simply not right. I won't repeat what I've said is the purpose of the proposal. Besides, even if that were the purpose, you haven't explained how it will particularly help a person get academic credit if there are fewer rather than more names on the contributor list.

You seem to be assuming that the contributor list will be (or contain or imply) some prescribed way of citing the CZ article. But I don't assume that. That's a separate issue entirely. Indeed, I wouldn't want to put any names on article for purposes of citing it--even the name of the approving editor(s). But, again, that's a separate issue. What this proposal addresses is quite simply what names will be credited as contributors on the article page.

If you are interested in how we will recommend that people cite articles on their CVs, there is this proposal. --Larry Sanger 23:12, 8 March 2008 (CST)

I fail to understand why we are not taking into account the value of the contribution. 50 words, 250 words mean nothing if they are largely superficially relevant to the topic. After all, someone could contribute less than fifty words (but likely between 50 and 250) and make edits that represent key important core points of the article. --Robert W King 08:09, 9 March 2008 (CDT)
In response to Robert King's good argument: the reason for the 250 word cutoff is that the contributors themselves can make the claim without controversy. If we use a value criteria then editors will have to spend the time to evaluate large numbers of entries, and we simply do not have the staffing to do that. Anyone is free to make a valuable 100 word contribution at any time, and be listed on the history page. If that person waants "author" designation, he or she has an incentive to add more text to get to the 250 cutoff (I think anyone capable of making a valuable contribution in 50 words knows enough about the topic to add more.)Richard Jensen 10:06, 9 March 2008 (CDT)
Has someone pointed this out? – What if Author I is given credit for an article, and then a year down the line Author II swoops in and alters the article in a way unfavorable to Author I. But Author I is unaware of the changes, and the bibliographical reference for the article remains in his/her CV. What follows next is . . . a potential job employer, scanning Author I’s CV, proceeds to eyeball the article in question on CZ, only to find that the article is somewhat embarrassing to Author I. And in short, Author I fails to get the job. This scenario suggests that an author would have to keep returning to CZ to ensure that his/her article is still suitable enough for a CV. Moreover, is it not too much to expect that a job employer is going to take the time to scan the “history” page? That, I think, is a very dangerous assumption. The "uncertainty principle" of author designation could even lead to qualified scholars staying away from CZ. All this recalls to my mind Jacques Derrida’s “The Word Processor” in Paper Machine (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2005), p. 24-32.Jeffrey Scott Bernstein 14:17, 9 March 2008 (CDT)
Jeffrey brings up a good point. The solution is for the author to cite the date of the version he takes credit for. ("retrieved on Dec 31, 2007"). This retrieval dating is standard practice in academe. Richard Jensen 14:52, 9 March 2008 (CDT)
Significant points:
1. Even if Author I’s contribution to an article is dated, the potential job employer may not bother to examine the article’s history to find out who wrote what. (I repeat, assuming the job employer will take the time to compare different versions of an article is a fantastically dangerous assumption.) What if the newest version of the article (featuring an unwelcome contribution from an Author II) is so offensive to the job employer, that he/she immediately shuts down CZ and tears up Author I’s job application?
2. What if Author I does not want credit for his/her article, then Author II swoops in, adds 250 words (a “trivia section”, say), and does request credit. Now, Author II will be seen, at least at face value, as the sole author of the piece, and can sustain this misrepresentation in his/her own CV.
3. A word on retrieval dating. CZ is nothing like, for example, Grove’s Music Online or the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Online. Articles in those latter places cannot be changed by just anyone, and are, for the most part, static; hence, an author’s name is rightly appended to an article, because the author has the confidence that his/her work will remain unadulterated. In that case, retrieval dating is right and proper (and I’m leaving out supporting argumentation for this). Retrieval dating is not relevant to CZ, because of the spectre of an Unknown Author II, if not Unknown Author III and so on, who can swoop in, tinker with, and change things, without Author I knowing or the potential job employer caring to examine the fine details of the whole shebang.Jeffrey Scott Bernstein 16:03, 9 March 2008 (CDT)

I have previously stated that in my view this scheme should be confined to Approved articles. There would be, therefore, a definite version of the article referred to; furthermore, there would be an incentive for everyone to try to get articles approved, so that there would be visible credit. I think this scheme, in its current form, trivialises the contribution issue. Martin Baldwin-Edwards 16:28, 9 March 2008 (CDT)

Martin, I hope it would be clear by now that it trivializes contribution very intentionally. Please do have a look at my arguments, above. --Larry Sanger 17:30, 9 March 2008 (CDT)

Of course, the intentionality is very clear! Martin Baldwin-Edwards 18:56, 9 March 2008 (CDT)

The "Osama Factor": strongest argument of all against author attribution?

But can’t even Approved Articles be tinkered with, after debate on the discussion page? But what if Author I has disappeared from the scene, and therefore is not involved in the debate?
What if Author I writes “Symphony”, then Osama Bin Laden swoops in and adds 250 words to the article? Now Author I will have to write on his CV, or at least a potential job employer could come to CZ to see: Author I and Osama Bin Laden, “Symphony”, etc.? Author designation on CZ will offer the danger that Author I may have to become allied with some unsavory individual. Is this not the strongest argument yet against author designation on CZ: The danger of an embarrassing collaboration?Jeffrey Scott Bernstein 16:35, 9 March 2008 (CDT)
No, the Approved version cannot be changed. Changes are made to the draft. Subsequently, another approved version can be made, but this will have a different Approval version number. The first is called 1.0 which makes it clear. I suppose for minor changes we use the decimal place, but normally it would go to 2.0 after that. Martin Baldwin-Edwards 16:38, 9 March 2008 (CDT)
Osama-who? this is not Wikipedia. CZ does not allow people to damage or sabotage articles. The issue came up in a US Supreme Court context about 40 years ago: Justice William Douglas gave an interview to a reporter who wrote it up an published it in "Evergreen Magazine". A few pages latter the magazine had some pictures of nude women. Congressman Jerry Ford attacked Douglas for consorting with pornographers! Douglas supporters laughed it off (and Ford went on to become president). University promotion committees are made of sterner stuff, and not to worry about them.Richard Jensen 16:50, 9 March 2008 (CDT)
I agree the focus on approved articles would be better, who contributed to unapproved articles is less important. Second, for me the primary incentive is that some/all funding bodies would like to see some form of attribution. If Lee Berger can get an CZ outreach component funded on a grant due to attribution, but not without it, then this alone is a reason to consider this proposal. It represents a way to attract more contributions from academics at a time when their time is limited. Think of it as a recruiting tool. Sure people may well abuse it on their CV's but I don't think any employer would take such claims that seriously. I somehow doubt many authors would even use it on their publication CV? Chris Day (talk) 16:40, 9 March 2008 (CDT)
The Approved version 1.0, for example, cannot be changed, but if Osama Bin Laden, or someone who at first seems like a nice chap but then a year down the line is revealed to be Osama Bin Laden, swoops in and writes version 2.0 of "Symphony", Author I will forevermore Still Be Connected to Osama, as I see it. Author attribution is far too dangerous. If CZ wants to be like Grove's Music Online or the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Online, then the Approved Article Should Never Be Able To Be Changed except by the Author I himself or herself. Otherwise, "Houston, we have a problem". Writing for CZ becomes Simply Too Scary.Jeffrey Scott Bernstein 16:46, 9 March 2008 (CDT)
This is inevitable on any project like this. Even not working on the same articles would put you together as part of the same web site? Besides, didn't Larry point out above that the names would not be part of a citable reference? Chris Day (talk) 16:49, 9 March 2008 (CDT)
Just a comment on something Chris said above, because I think it might help: I disagree that "the focus on approved articles would be better, who contributed to unapproved articles is less important." It is irrelevant whether an article is approved or not. Why? Because the purpose of the contributor list is not to make an academic-style citable list of main authors, for purposes of getting credit. The purpose of the list is no more than to give a small amount of incentive to contributors. I am 100% dead-set opposed to any list of "major authors," or any set of authors that is edited or maintained by editors. I've explained why above. See this proposal for what I think our approach for getting credit should be. --Larry Sanger 17:16, 9 March 2008 (CDT)
That's almost paradoxical. --Robert W King 17:20, 9 March 2008 (CDT)
And why's that, Robert? --Larry Sanger 17:26, 9 March 2008 (CDT)
"The purpose of the list is no more than to give a small amount of incentive to contributors." Yet, you're dead-set against a list of major authors (who technically, are also contributors, but they are major contributors). So what exactly is the incentive? Why even bother? --Robert W King 17:28, 9 March 2008 (CDT)
It isn't obvious? You would bother because you would like to see your name on the bottom of an article--just as you like to see your name on talk pages like this one! --Larry Sanger 17:32, 9 March 2008 (CDT)
So, in short, at the bottom of a CZ page, if it says: Contributors: Martin Baldwin-Edwards; Chris Day; Richard Jensen; Osama Bin Laden -- you guys are happy with that? Cool. As for "Osama-who", clearly I meant it to refer to any person whose reputation is put under a cloud (could compile a list here).Jeffrey Scott Bernstein 17:21, 9 March 2008 (CDT)
Jeff, you've got a good point, one worth thinking about. It's always worth thinking about unintended consequences. Here, you're saying that experts might be less likely to participate if they thought that they were obligated to put their names alongside their students, or cranks, or terrorists :-), or whatever. I notice that Gareth said he would not want his name on any CZ article, and I thought that was an interesting point, too. You're right that this is a consideration against any author attribution at all. But I'm not entirely convinced that it would be such a terrible thing, in practice; I'd need to hear the whole argument teased out. Bear in mind that it's part of the proposal that people can remove their names. --Larry Sanger 17:26, 9 March 2008 (CDT)
Re Osama....If terrible hate-mongers or terrorists get into CZ the project will be in very serious trouble whether or not this proposal passes because their names will be on the history list. That is an issue for Wikipedia but we have plenty of safeguards. Richard Jensen 19:17, 9 March 2008 (CDT)


  • Year 1: CZ Page: “World War II”: Contributor: Richard Jensen
  • Year 2: CZ Page: “World War II”: Contributors: Richard Jensen; David Irving-Type-Guy-Who-Is-Only-Revealed-As-Such-Some-Time-Later.

Don't mind this inconvenience? Vote yes for the proposal.Jeffrey Scott Bernstein 19:47, 9 March 2008 (CDT)

Jeffrey: I appreciate your point. I have two remarks to make, though. First, this problem really is avoided by versions of Approval, since you can remove your name from later versions if needed. Secondly, this sort of wiki collaboration has a different meaning from conventional author collaborations: for my part, I would be merely bemused that my name might appear with that of someone infamous. I really don;t think anyone else would interpret such coincidence as meaningful. After all, people like Bin Laden are hardly likely to apply let alone be accepted as authors on CZ. Martin Baldwin-Edwards 20:17, 9 March 2008 (CDT)
An interesting and lucid argument, Jeff. But let me add an observation: to some extent, this is just one of the hazards of our business.
I had an instance where a booklet I was working on in collaboration with others was being radically changed by one of them. (I should point out that I was the lead [read 'major'] author.) What to do? Chuck it all in because I didn't agree with the changes in one section? I didn't wish to be associated with something I thought was wrong.
A choreographer friend had an even worse time of it. He was listed as co-choreographer on a production for which he had not done the dance choreography. What he *had* done was the other movement--as you probably know there can be a lot of movement in a production that is not dancing, but nevertheless requires choreography. And, what's worse, the friend in question thought the dance choreography was bad--really bad--[insert harsh pejorative expression of your choice]], in fact. And he didn't have a choice in the matter, the programs were printed before he could object.
Screenwriters often run into situations where they're credited in conjunction with others for work some of which they find substandard. In one very famous movie, the man who wrote almost the entire screenplay is NOT credited with it; he asked for his name to be removed because he was ***ed of about some changes--I'm forgetting which move--it'll come back to me, and it was the ultimate cutting--off-yer-nose-to-spite-yer-face move.
Aleta Curry 03:30, 10 March 2008 (CDT)

A Series of More Issues

1a. Pen name. Having your real name on your user page and in the history and discussion pages is one thing, but having your name at the bottom of the article page is, to my mind, something different. Would CZ allow Eric Blair to use the name “George Orwell”? Authors in the “real world” and in the academic world always have the right to use a pen name, don’t they? Anyone think about this yet?

I doubt if in the purely academic world "George Orwell" would be allowed as the name on scholarly publications. How about the great British mystery writer Michael Innes, who was a very highly regarded Oxford scholar who wrote both straight novels and academic works ("Five Modern Writers") under his real name, J.I.M. Stewart? Many academics of that era wrote mysteries under bylines. And used their real names for their real-life studies....Hayford Peirce 09:59, 10 March 2008 (CDT)
Hayford: wrong. George Orwell published “Politics and the English Language” in Horizon: Journal of the Philosophical Research Society, no. 76, April 1946.Jeffrey Scott Bernstein 10:10, 10 March 2008 (CDT)

1b. So what if someone demands to use the pen name Osama Bin Dweebily? Who is going to decide what is a “plausible sounding” pen name? That can open a can of worms, because some “real names” sound incredibly fake and silly (ask any librarian who deals with international reader lists, for example).

2. What if someone adds 250 words to the bibliography? Isn’t a bibliography an integral part of an academic paper?

3. What if someone REMOVES 250 words in a burst of judicious editing? Is this person to be credited, because of the significant work done?

4. What if someone adds 249 integral words to an article?

5. Why is credit based on a word limit? What if an author suggests a significant concept that contributes to the article in an inalterably prominent way?

6. Why in the world should the names of contributors be alphabetical? This is not standard practice in the academic world by any means.

7. Aleta, I love you but CZ is not a “business” and has zero to do with, for example, screenwriting. When I begin to get royalties for every time someone clicks on articles that I have contributed to on CZ, I will then ponder your points at length.

8. All this reminds me of the Patriot Act . . . Just how many people in Congress read it all the way through before voting on it?

9. I would write more here but I am now in the process of devising 250 integral words for every single CZ article yet posted. My pen name shall be Melvin MacScrooby.Jeffrey Scott Bernstein 09:00, 10 March 2008 (CDT)

Bot to removed Jeff's stuff

Jeff, I will then create a BOT to remove your silly 250 word addition so we both end up with credit. ROFL. David E. Volk 09:08, 10 March 2008 (CDT)

Bwee hee hee. But David, I said 250 INTEGRAL words, so CZ can be renamed CZJSB!Jeffrey Scott Bernstein 09:10, 10 March 2008 (CDT)

I think you're getting into the realms of fantasy, here, Jones

(Jeff will probably get that)

Now who said you could just start writing under umpteen pen names at CZ? What did I miss? (And, if you're really gonna write 250 integral words for each of 6,000 articles, good on ya!) But the 250 word thing isn't my issue; I leave that to others.

Jeff, you misunderstand me. Our 'business', yours and mine, is writing, and writing has its hazards.

One of the underlying issues in this to-credit-or-not-to-credit thing was the question of how and in what ways CZers might need credit, i.e. when and how is crediting authors useful, how does that help or hinder the project, and help or hinder the author. No, we're not going to rake in the big bucks writing for CZ. Does that mean that there should be no other advantage or reward? Clearly not--if we didn't get something out of this, and that does not have to be and certainly right now is not, something tangible, we wouldn't be doing it.

It sounds like you have not had one of my experiences, which is having my online writing quoted, used without attribution (to the source, never mind to myself), paraphrased, in one amusing instance used to my face to enlighten me about a topic (yes, I said in as calm and sweet a voice as I could muster, and trying not to sound smug, I *have* heard of that. I actually wrote a little bit about it at (name of site).)

I've actually lost count of the times such things have happened, but the most recent one was about ten days ago, something I wrote made its way into some Council documents (yes, of course I'm serious, would I make this up?). It was an amazing experience to have someone hand you your own work in a packet of papers at a meeting going "here, this will help explain". Okay, then.

Would it have helped me in these instances to have had credit for these submissions, and is it fair and reasonable that I should ask for it? I think 'yes', because it might lead to a paying or more prestigious or just plain uplifting assignment someplace else.

Make sense?

Aleta Curry 16:44, 10 March 2008 (CDT)

Getting ready to submit

All, I hope to submit this proposal Monday. I'd do it right now, but I have to get other things done... --Larry Sanger 12:46, 29 February 2008 (CST)

Minor suggestion: include a math-intensive field, such as chemistry, economics, engineering, math or physics, in the list of workgroups for the trial. That will help resolve questions peculiar to those fields such as how many sentences an equation is worth. Warren Schudy 22:22, 9 March 2008 (CDT)

If another Editorial Council member would like to prepare and sponsor the resolution, I'd appreciate it. --Larry Sanger 12:47, 29 February 2008 (CST)

I formally move an amendment: replace adding at least two sentences with adding at least 250 words Richard Jensen 18:04, 8 March 2008 (CST)
I am going to submit the resolution (I should have done so yesterday--maybe tomorrow) to the Editorial Council as I wrote it. You can make a motion to amend after I have submitted the resolution, and then we can vote on your amendment. That's how to formally move an amendment; one can't formally move an amendment here on this page. --Larry Sanger 22:54, 8 March 2008 (CST)

Text here was removed by the Constabulary on grounds that it is needlessly inflammatory. (The author may replace this template with an edited version of the original remarks.)

I have formally requested that the Constabulary reverse its decision to remove the text that was here. These were constitutional disagreements, and not in any way personal or "inflammatory". In fact, the removal of such remarks itself raises serious constitutional issues, and will probably require a re-examination of the powers of the Constabulary.Martin Baldwin-Edwards 20:07, 9 March 2008 (CDT)

I must agree with Martin; I didn't see anything necessarily inflammatory in the text. --Robert W King 20:10, 9 March 2008 (CDT)
I have no problem with Martin's text. --Larry Sanger 20:12, 9 March 2008 (CDT)
Would you prefer a public or private response for the rationale for my action? --D. Matt Innis 21:16, 9 March 2008 (CDT)

If that means you are refusing to reinstate the text, I would prefer public. I repeat my claim that you are acting outside of the authority of the Constabulary. Martin Baldwin-Edwards 21:19, 9 March 2008 (CDT)

Then I suppose I am at the mercy of the court. Please feel free to take this to a higher level. I will accept a public process and abide by whatever decision that is reached. --D. Matt Innis 21:29, 9 March 2008 (CDT)

Matt: a simple declaration of intent by a member of the Editorial Council to submit an amendment to this proposal cannot be inflammatory. The dialogue which ensued was strong but polite, with some serious issues of constitutionality on CZ. As it was strong, I apologised for the bluntness in the text.

The Constabulary has no authority to interfere with the Editorial Council members in their official capacities. Kindly reinstate the text immediately, or justify here why you found it "inflammatory". Martin Baldwin-Edwards 21:43, 9 March 2008 (CDT)

I am unaware of any rule that allows me to give special consideration to EC members (or EIC or constable for that matter). If there is one, please point me there and I will reconsider, otherwise, this is not the place for this matter. If you bring it to a higher level, I am sure they will provide a place for us. --D. Matt Innis 22:34, 9 March 2008 (CDT)

As you are well aware, of course there is no special rule for Editorial Council members. There are two issues here: the first is that the dialogue was not inflammatory and you have failed to justify here why you removed it; secondly, the effect of your action has been to remove discussion of Editorial Council issues from this page.

As clearly you have no intention of rescinding your illegal decision, I give below a summary of what was removed.

  • MBE stated that he will table an amendment to this proposal, limiting it to Approved articles.
  • LS replied that that is the right of Jensen and MBE [as members of the EC] but he will oppose the amendments
  • MBE expressed concern that the formal position of the Editor-in-Chief should not appear to be in direct conflict with authors and members of the Editorial Council.

Of course, interested parties can view the original text anyway through the history of this page.

Martin Baldwin-Edwards 22:50, 9 March 2008 (CDT)

OK, Martin, what I don't understand now is why you say "the Editor-in-Chief should not appear to be in direct conflict with authors and members of the Editorial Council." Surely you don't mean that literally; it would, obviously, tie the hands of the Editor-in-Chief. Indeed it's the EiC's duty to disagree when he feels it is necessary; that's called leadership. Perhaps you meant something other than that the EiC should not appear to be in conflict with members of the Editorial Council? --Larry Sanger 23:36, 9 March 2008 (CDT)

Martin perhaps had in mind the Rules for the Editorial Council which warn against actions that "may undermine the Council's trust in his or her [the Chair's] impartiality". With the Editor in Chief as the chair, impartiality is called for. Richard Jensen 00:22, 10 March 2008 (CDT)
Which is why I am not the chair for this resolution, as you will see when Supten chairs it. This is also why I will soon be stepping down as Chair. But it is simply ridiculous to ask the Editor-in-Chief not to take controversial stands. To say that is simply to strip him of all power. --Larry Sanger 01:21, 10 March 2008 (CDT)
My, my. Last time I was here, all was quiet on the Western Front. A girl has *one* busy weekend, necessitating that she stay away for a couple of days, and I get back and tout l'enfer has broken loose!
Curiosity got the better of me, so I *had* to go back and search through the history (a pain in the rusty-dusty, by the way, and I can assure anybody that no employer is going to bother to do it, so scrap that as an argument for anything). Where was I? Oh yeah. Well, I didn't see anything I would consider deliberately/horribly/particularly--I've forgotten the phrase we use--inflammatory, but these things are always open to interpretation.
Far be it for me to attempt to speak for Martin, but I cannot imagine, Larry, that he was suggesting that *anybody* is not entitled to a stand, controversial or otherwise. It seemed to me that his point harked back (somewhat) to a question I had much earlier in the piece, which is, are/were you implying that when you opposed the proposed proposal amendments (there's a mouthful), that there was some sort of finality about that? If so, that's certainly your right, but I still don't see why we're going through all this, if that's the case. If it's just to let us air all the issues, well 1) you could've just said, here's the pilot plan we're going to follow, please comment below and 2) we *did* know where most of us stood going in, and yes, you were in the minority, but, one plus is that now we know where some newer arrivals stand, too, and that's a good thing.
So, I STILL don't know exactly what happens next in this process.
Yes, I'll go read the resolution.
Aleta Curry 03:00, 10 March 2008 (CDT)
Martin wrote: "MBE expressed concern that the formal position of the Editor-in-Chief should not appear to be in direct conflict with authors and members of the Editorial Council." I don't claim that that's inflammatory (perhaps Matt disagrees)--just wrong, and so obviously so that I wonder what Martin could possibly have had in mind. --Larry Sanger 10:07, 10 March 2008 (CDT)

I don't think the problem here is the E-in-C having a strong opinion. The problem is we've all forgotten about a couple of paragraphs in the proposal rules:

"Please bear in mind that, merely because you are the driver of proposal or issue, you do not therefore have the exclusive right to determine the shape of the proposal/issue. That should be determined first by negotiation with other interested Citizens, and then (if necessary) by the decision-making body. This is particularly important to bear in mind with issues: the driver must take great care to state the different options as fairly as possible.
If you simply have no interest in converting a proposal, which presents your preferred plan, into an issue, which gives the community two or more options to consider, you need not do so. In particular, you are not obligated to articulate another option to which you are opposed. You generally should, however, allow another person or persons to articulate that option and thereby become a co-driver of the issue. The Proposals Manager should be called upon to supervise the conversion of a proposal into an issue; while he or she must pay attention to and respond fairly to arguments on all sides, his or her determination as to who may drive a proposal/issue will be regarded as final. Appeals on such controversies can be made to the Editor-in-Chief, but only after the Proposals Manager has made a determination. The Editor-in-Chief will overrule the Proposals Manager only if unusual neglect, obvious bias, or other clear problem with process is noted."

This proposal is controversial so it should have been treated as an issue with the different viewpoints and options represented neutrally in the official text, but since we're all new to the proposals system, no one remembered to point that out. It would probably be best if Larry were to temporarily withdraw the resolution while this proposal is converted into an issue. Then one or more resolutions, reflecting all views, can be prepared, and then a summary of the issue presented to the editorial council. As is, the editorial council rules prohibit amendments at first, which may give the impression that Larry, as the driver, is giving his opinion on this issue an unfair head start in the editorial council. Warren Schudy 00:25, 10 March 2008 (CDT)

Next time, we might indeed do things as you say. I don't want to withdraw the resolution; Jitse has no authority to ask me to do so (as Proposals Manager, he is acting as proxy for me, after all); besides, he has no control over what goes on on the Editorial Council. Anyway, please don't worry or blow this out of proportion: the controversial aspects of the proposal will be fully canvassed and voted on by the Editorial Council. Next time, we will focus on how to make the proposal into an issue. This is bound to be complex and raise all sorts of hard issues of its own. --Larry Sanger 01:19, 10 March 2008 (CDT)

I agree that it's too late to convert the proposal to an issue now that a resolution is brought before the Editorial Council. Perhaps I should have intervened earlier and I might have if I had been warned before; I don't have the time to keep a close watch on all discussions. -- Jitse Niesen 06:50, 10 March 2008 (CDT)
To answer the question posed above by Larry: there is a difference between having strong opinions on a topic (combined with leadership) and simply ignoring the mass of opinion that contradicts your strongly-held position. Actually, I personally do not have a strong opinion on this issue, but in the course of events have noticed that it is highly controversial and virtually none of our principal authors is of your opinion. I merely wished to stress that the Editorial Council must be made aware of this situation and any necessary amendments be made. However, given some of your previous statements on this exact issue, there remained doubt in my mind that you can accept wholesale reform of the proposal. Martin Baldwin-Edwards 07:25, 10 March 2008 (CDT)
I am nonplussed, Martin. How on Earth have I ignored "the mass of opinion that contradicts" my position? I have written huge amounts of replies--cogent and largely respectful--and have found usually (if you look above) that I ask questions and make arguments in reply that are met with silence. I have also found that my own positive arguments have mostly been met with silence. This strikes me as an issue that it is important to reason about. But I am having the hardest time getting anyone to engage with what I've said. Perhaps you can see my frustration. So forgive me if I don't understand why I should simply "accept wholesale reform of the proposal," when no one yet has demonstrated that he understands the original proposal, and its reasoning, in the first place. I am a very reasonable person, Martin. When presented with a superior argument, I will charitably acknowledge it, as I think I have demonstrated time and time again on this project and elsewhere. But when presented with nothing more than pressure on the part of people who have evidently not grappled with the issues adequately, why should I ignore my own reasoning and hard-won experience? Indeed, I dare say have more experience thinking this through, and actually testing it out, than anyone.
Also, I have to say I am very skeptical of the notion that the people who have pushed most aggressively for a culture of credit on CZ represent mainstream Citizen opinion. We have seen several people above who have said they would prefer not to have any on-page contributor list at all; they are not as motivated to defend the status quo, however, as certain other people are to change it. --Larry Sanger 09:59, 10 March 2008 (CDT)
I was thinking of the earlier (and very lengthy) discussions on the Forum, whereas here I have the impression that people have just given up trying to get you to change your mind. What is mainstream opinion on CZ about this? Of course, none of us knows. However, there were enough of CZ's most active authors pushing for author recognition so as to be very visible. It is also true that a few people are not concerned to have this. For my part, I consider that restricting it to Approved articles makes far more sense than your own proposal, in that it gives credit where it is due for something worth having recognition for. It also is more manageable, given that you are concerned about a possible culture of ownership developing. However, I am advocating this simply as a CZ policy, not because it would benefit me in any way. It may be that we simply disagree on this point: it happens.Martin Baldwin-Edwards 14:44, 10 March 2008 (CDT)

The Constabulary has removed a conversation here that either in whole or in part did not meet Citizendium's Professionalism policy. Feel free to remove this template and take up the conversation with a fresh start.

Proposal made

The proposal is now Editorial Council Resolution 0008. --Larry Sanger 16:39, 9 March 2008 (CDT)

Good job all! I am so happy. I wanted to, however submit I comment I made on the talk page of the proposal.
  • "Awesome! For future versions, maybe have it in the policy to check the user's page before adding a contributor. Then users could put on their user page whether they allow others to add their names as a contribution. For example, I might put on my userpage that I would like to add myself and request that no one else add me to the contribution list. Tom Kelly 17:50, 9 March 2008 (CDT)."
Thanks. Tom Kelly 17:52, 9 March 2008 (CDT)

Very reasonable request. I'll add it. --Larry Sanger 19:48, 9 March 2008 (CDT)

I'd like to ask some kind soul to archive some of the earlier discussion? This page is absurdly long! --Larry Sanger 10:27, 10 March 2008 (CDT)

I've withdrawn the resolution, and here is the reason I gave: "I am hereby withdrawing Resolution 0008. Since it hasn't been placed on the agenda yet, I believe I am in the clear in doing so. The reason for my doing this is that this is a particularly important resolution, and yet about half of the people on the Council virtually never do any work on the wiki. I am very concerned that whatever decision they make will not be regarded as legitimate by the larger community, and we will merely have to revisit the issue after the new Council, composed of more active, committed Citizens, is in place. This decision to withdraw the resolution brings me no joy, because I would like to have this matter behind us. But I think this is the right decision."

I will resubmit the resolution once the new Council is in place. --Larry Sanger 11:03, 10 March 2008 (CDT)

Oh dear. This *is* unfortunate. I do believe I understand why, but I'm still not sure it's a good thing.
For one thing, it'll necessitate yet another round of discussion. People get tired--well, I do, at any rate--and they stop participating. This is not good.
Those who don't stop participating get ever more entrenched in their arguments, and lose track of the relative merits and disadvantages, i.e. they stop listening. This is not good, either.
Aleta Curry 16:48, 10 March 2008 (CDT)

The new council won't be up until April according to resolution 7. Therefore, we have plenty of time to convert this into an issue, right? Warren Schudy 09:26, 11 March 2008 (CDT)

Motivating amateurs or experts?

Larry's proposal does an excellent job of motivating amateurs, but it does very little to motivate experts. Most of the changes that have been proposed, such as limiting to approved articles and requiring substantial contributions, make a lot of sense for motivating experts. Experts have published before, and are therefore unimpressed by the idea of seeing their name in print below an article, especially one that doesn't meet their standards (unapproved). If crediting were approved-only and only for substantial contributions, experts would respect the credit system enough to be motivated by it. It would also be more useful on CVs, which is an excellent way of motivating experts.

I don't have a solution to propose right now, but figuring out who we're trying to motivate might help Larry and the vocal editors understand each other. Warren Schudy 10:43, 11 March 2008 (CDT)

Depends on how you define "amateurs". If we are talking young teenagers, I agree it might be motivating. Stephen Ewen 11:18, 11 March 2008 (CDT)

A call for calm, cool, rational dialectic

Martin: the way to get me to change my mind is to attack the reasons for which I hold my position; it will not induce me to change my mind to say that I hold an unpopular position, or that I believe things that are obviously wrong. I have reasons for taking the positions I do, you know. Actually, in your comments, you do not even acknowledge that I have reasons for holding my positions. Maybe the problem is simply that I have said too much, and no one is motivated actually to try to read, understand, and reply all of that--or any part of it. Again, rather than complaining that I am stubborn, I am begging you all for a meaningful dialectic on the merits of the issues. Maybe we will change each others' minds. It's not like that hasn't happened before; in fact, I pride myself on my ability to change my mind and follow the arguments exactly where they go. But for this, we must put aside all sorts of personal characterizations and ill will, and consider the details of the arguments. The devil's in the details--that's hackneyed, but true.

So, let's take one point, shall we? You say, "I consider that restricting it to Approved articles makes far more sense than your own proposal, in that it gives credit where it is due for something worth having recognition for." Obviously I disagree that this "makes far more sense," but I do keep an open mind. If you'll read what I wrote above, in the "Reasoning" section (there's a whole subsection about the question at issue here: "Why not restrict credit to approved pages?"), you'll see that I specifically don't want inclusion on the contributor list to be "something worth having recognition for." We ought to be debating about that. Basically, you're taking your position about whether we should include contributor lists only on approved articles or not, based on a premise that I not only reject, but which I attack at considerable length. --Larry Sanger 11:54, 11 March 2008 (CDT)

Yes, we disagree on the premiss. I have never been in doubt about that, and I did not mean to imply that you are without reasons for holding your premisses. I simply do not share them and it seems that many others do not... Martin Baldwin-Edwards 12:08, 11 March 2008 (CDT)
Maybe the problem is that I am asking you to do what comes naturally to me: philosophize. Right, we disagree on the premise. But why do we? I've explained at excruciating length why I take my position on that premise. Why do you take yours? --Larry Sanger 12:26, 11 March 2008 (CDT)
I do not see this as being about philosophising at all. In fact, that is what makes it so difficult for the argument to proceed calmly. Happily, I do not hold a strong commitment to any particular policy, so I am unlikely to get upset over this. (I was more upset about my comments being removed incorrectly by the Constabulary.) Basically, I suspect that your premise is axiomatic and therefore immoveable. You believe that making Approved articles special, with named credit for them, will lead to in-fighting and problems on CZ. This premise is founded on your personal perception of social psychology -- i.e. that it how people behave in such a circumstance. I am much more sceptical that simple rules apply to social behaviour: there are mediating structures that will tend to offset the acceptability of such behaviour. Indeed, the paradox is that these very structures are here because you yourself had the insight to create them! These things include: named real person contributors; accountability procedures for behaviour; draconian powers that can be invoked where needed, but are rarely so; democratic procedures for ensuring that CZ citizens really do have some role in the organisation of CZ, and feel positive about it...
In short, this proposal seems to run counter to the general trend of openness and accountability on CZ. To my mind, it is predicated on a rather cautious and slightly cynical view of how humans behave. You may turn out to be right (although I doubt it) which is why we should have this as a pilot and abandon or modify it should there be real problems. I hope this answers your query. Martin Baldwin-Edwards 13:32, 11 March 2008 (CDT)
Really? My premise is "axiomatic and therefore immoveable"? Do you mean that it does not matter at all what arguments I used, because I don't sincerely believe that they support the premise? Come on now, Martin, are you actually, seriously saying that it doesn't matter what arguments I use--that I am merely rationalizing, perhaps? Surely you aren't saying that; that would be incredibly insulting and just silly, and an argumentative tactic that is clearly beneath you. But then, I don't know what you are saying. -- And did you notice that I am open to empirical test (see below)? Does that sound like I am merely endorsing an axiom?
Anyway, I'm turning off the Web browser now and buckling down to work on a presentation I'll be giving at Harvard on Thursday, in which I offer extensive rationalizations for things that I believe of faith.  ;-) --Larry Sanger 13:41, 11 March 2008 (CDT)
I did not mean that you are merely rationalising. On the other hand, we all have different perceptions of reality: to go against our instincts on difficult issues is unwise, and I support your reluctance to do so. I agree that some experimental testing is the way to go, and will be less difficult than any line of argumentation.Martin Baldwin-Edwards 14:52, 11 March 2008 (CDT)

I'm going to say one other thing. I know this is going to make some people upset, but it is important that it be said: as Editor-in-Chief, I hold a veto power over the Editorial Council, though the Editorial Council can overrule me with a 2/3 vote. That said, I'm an extremely reasonable person. If others are willing, I am willing to work toward compromise. But I do want a cool, calm, rational dialectic on the details of the issues before we start compromising.

And, if you are very concerned that I am acting like a tyrant, consider that I am merely insisting that others actually debate me about it carefully before I compromise (any more than I already have--which is a lot!). Insisting on rational debate is not the sort of things tyrants do: they simply lay down the law. I have not done that. And consider also that, depending on funding and candidate availability, I have already committed to stepping down from the position of Editor-in-Chief either later this year, or in 2009. Now, please don't worry--I won't abandon the project if there isn't anyone available to take over--but I am very serious about stepping down, to set a healthy precedent. --Larry Sanger 12:12, 11 March 2008 (CDT)

Er, the problem I have with this argument is that there is a tyrant-like preposition. It goes like this:
  • "I propose this rule."
  • "This rule will be law if I am not debated."
  • "If I am not debated to my satisfaction, then the law will be implemented and carried out."
  • By default, "My rule is law unless convinced otherwise".
  • "Only the masses can oppose me without proper debate."
This is my interpretation of how this has gone on. --Robert W King 12:44, 11 March 2008 (CDT)

No, Robert. This is both simplistic and just wrong. The facts are these: I proposed a change. Some other people, including you, want to go further. I explained in great depth why I am opposed to going further. Hardly anyone is actually bothering to examine my arguments. I explain why I am unmoved by the ongoing cajoling and pressuring: no one is examining my arguments. That's all. It is far from being the case that I am "laying down the law": I would not dare suggest that I can institute any such program without the consent of the Editorial Council. If we cannot agree, and you cannot override a veto from me, then as in any organization with a proper balance of power, nothing will happen. --Larry Sanger 13:09, 11 March 2008 (CDT)

Compromise pilot project?

I thought of a (to me) acceptable compromise, which should be acceptable to rational, scientifically-minded people. I don't have time to spell out the details (I have to finish working on this presentation I'm giving the day after tomorrow), but it would go like this. We do two concurrent pilot projects. In some workgroups, we do it however the rest of you want to do it. In other workgroups, we do it my way. Then we (somehow) examine which articles enjoyed the most active collaborations. How exactly to measure "the most active collaborations" remains to be seen; that has to be thought through carefully and in advance. Actually, a nice variant on this would be to allow only articles in the Core Articles lists to be written this way; that might encourage work on the Core Articles.

Whatever the details, at the end of the pilot project, we examine the results according to certain pre-specified, objective metrics. We then issue a report, for the Editorial Council to consider, of what happened. To avoid gaming this test, however, we would not count participation from people who have been partisans here and elsewhere on this issue (you know who you are--and it includes me, and certainly also includes Martin, Steve, Robert, and no doubt others). Given this test and these metrics, if I was proven wrong--if there were more robust collaboration and activity under a system of differential credit--then I would promise not to veto a proposal that gave differential credit, and I might well support it. But if I am proven right, I would like apologies from every dogmatist who has failed to engage me above. Sound like a plan?

This is something that I think we might all be able to agree to, and so the present Editorial Council could institute it. --Larry Sanger 13:13, 11 March 2008 (CDT)

Larry has this fear of "ownership" --that is people who write a small part of an article might want to control it and not be friendly collaborators. He offers no examples from real CZ experience for this proposition, and so it is not very convincing. Larry risks slipping into an ownership mode himself, by threatening vetoes if the majority does not agree with him. That rubs citizens the wrong way, I suggest. In my opinion that people who contribute 5% to 10% of an article (say 250 to 1000 words) will be indeed interested in its quality but will not claim full ownership; that is our experience on CZ. These marginal users deserve credit and we should not be so afraid of them, but instead set up goals they can reach and be recognized for. A trivial goal (two sentences is wehat Larry proposes) is in my opinion not much of a goal for a person who has written a paper for a first-year university class, or even a high school senior who has written a 500 word paper.Richard Jensen 13:34, 11 March 2008 (CDT)
I could give examples--many of them--but I deliberately did not, because they would insult some of the people in this forum. Yes, people take a certain sort of defensive ownership of "their" articles all the time--far too much than they should. We should be working toward consensus and agreement far more than we do. CZ is pretty good at collaboration, and not worse than Wikipedia, but we could do better. --Larry Sanger 13:44, 11 March 2008 (CDT)
Empirical testing, under controlled conditions, of competing hypotheses is a very good way to proceed. Martin Baldwin-Edwards 13:36, 11 March 2008 (CDT)
Empirical testing along Larry's lines will take a year or two to get results and in any case we are short of neutral people to spend that kind of time supervising and measuring it. Larry has incorrectly defined CZ's goal as "active collaborations" when our actual goal is recognition for writing done, and encouragement for more writing. Collaboration on a project like CZ means many people working on different articles and paying attention to each other and helping each other formulate policies, it does NOT mean many people working on the same article.Richard Jensen 13:42, 11 March 2008 (CDT)
I mean to claim that the goal of the project should be to increase collaborations. I agree that our goal is to get as much high-quality writing done as possible. I merely think that this is done, on a wiki, when people are working with each other, egging each other on, and not separated into their own little silos. We now have experience with how such uncollaborative wikis work, with Encyclopedia of Earth and Scholarpedia: poorly. Are you really saying, Richard, that you don't care how collaborative the project is? Do others agree with him? --Larry Sanger 13:50, 11 March 2008 (CDT)
I am saying that collaboration in CZ is a holistic enterprise (as exemplified by this discussion right now, or voting on the Draft of the week). Collaboration is very poorly measured article by article. That is because few CZ articles have more than a handful of significant contributors --and that is because we all specialize. It is Wikipedia-thinking to claim that because 75 people helped "edit" one article in the last month that it is therefore improved. That is a fallacy ("too many cooks spoil the soup") that CZ should avoid. Richard Jensen 14:45, 11 March 2008 (CDT)
Taking a break here from do more writing :-)...well, I don't disagree with you there, generally speaking. More contributors do not necessarily make better articles, on an article-by-article basis. But the sense that one is fully free to write wherever one wants is absolutely crucial to motivating people to contribute to wikis. We (or at least I) have seen this over and over again, in successful--and unsuccessful--wikis. But I don't think I'm saying anything you disagree with. The question simply is what metric of success should be used to measure whether which style of credit is best for the project? This is not at all an easy question, especially if we want it to be a feasible, usable metric. --Larry Sanger 16:01, 11 March 2008 (CDT)
The measure? Number of words in approved articles. Also, any person should be able to write, not just non-interested parties - who are non-partisans, only those who join next week and beyond? Some of us may be holding back on writing for the very reason of lack of attribution. Stephen Ewen 20:27, 11 March 2008 (CDT)
That wouldn't work as a good compromise position for me. For one thing, there aren't enough approved articles, so the sample size would be meaningless for a test. For another, approved articles are very far from being our only valuable content, though I agree that we need to think creatively of ways to increase the rate of approval. We'd want a metric (or a whole combination of metrics) that measures the full range of what we feel is particularly important to the long-term growth of the project. This might include things like number of new articles, length of articles, number of contributors to articles, and perhaps some others. We measure the rate of growth of these metrics before the pilot project against the rate of growth of these metrics during the pilot project. Also, while obviously partisans can write, it's just that their contributions wouldn't (insofar as is feasible) be included when we make final tallies of things like nubmers of contributors, etc.; again, the reason I wouldn't want that is that it is simply too easy for people to game the system. I simply want a fair playing field, that's all. If you're confident of your view, you should think that it doesn't matter if your contributions, Steve (for example), are included. --Larry Sanger 21:14, 11 March 2008 (CDT)

I agree, Larry: it needs a composite metric. The ideal type would be comnplex and non-transparent so that people could not easily "game" the system: easier said than done, though. Martin Baldwin-Edwards 21:24, 11 March 2008 (CDT)

Larry, you misunderstood my premise so I'll only deal with that. I meant only the number of NEW approved articles and their word count. In other words, you start the counting after the test begins. Also, please explain how this can be limited to only people who have no opinion on this manner. There is no such thing as a non-partisan. Stephen Ewen 21:30, 11 March 2008 (CDT)
If I misunderstood your premise, my reply is unchanged: it's still not a meaningful metric to measure how many new articles will be approved, for various reasons--for example, whether there is an active (approving) editor will determine whether any articles are approved, and as a variable this is highly independent of the thing(s) we are actually trying to test. As to partisans, they may be designated as persons who have spent some significant amount of space on this page (and the forums) arguing for some specific position. We can make a list of such persons. Newly-arrived partisans can be exempted. The point is, to ensure a fair test, we should avoid having partisans spend the entire test period "proving" their point by working tirelessly in just those workgroups the success of which would win their case. That could be a real problem. --Larry Sanger 00:24, 12 March 2008 (CDT)
a rsearch design of the sort used to test medicines--at the cost of millions of dollars--is not what CZ needs. Larry doesn't want author credits and he will veto any plan so we might as well wait until the next election for editor in chief where it can be a campaign issue. When is that election scheduled? Richard Jensen 21:36, 11 March 2008 (CDT)
Let's not go down that road. --Robert W King 21:39, 11 March 2008 (CDT)
That road is open when we have veto threats in the midst of a discussion. Larry has assigned himself veto power, which gets flaunted when people don't agree with his arguments. That risks sounding like the sort of "ownership" that Larry objects to on the part of authors.Richard Jensen 21:46, 11 March 2008 (CDT)
Richard, that doesn't make any sense to me. Aggressive defense of your version of an article, without making adequate attempts at compromise, is what I am complaining about. Explain to me, if you can, how I have failed to try to compromise. I have compromised again and again and again; some of those on the other side have not budged one inch. It seems to me that your complaint merely amounts to a complaining that I am not knuckling under properly. --Larry Sanger 00:24, 12 March 2008 (CDT)

Source of friction?

I don't have any particularly strong feelings one way or the other about this proposal. I am just concerned that i) it seems to be a source of a certain amount of friction, and ii) it is unquestionably soaking up a lot of time and energy that might more profitably be put to use generating content... J. Noel Chiappa 13:46, 11 March 2008 (CDT)

Fair nuff. It's a good thing I'm off the wiki for a few days, travelling and speaking! --Larry Sanger 13:50, 11 March 2008 (CDT)

Two cents du jour

1) Remember that Larry started CZ and has worked full-time with negligeable pay. He's earned the right to have more power than the rest of us, so people shouldn't get too pissed when he exercises his power. I'm not implying that he handled this discussion well, but rather that we should give him a little slack when he isn't perfect.

2) Larry, I have read your statements. It's somewhat insulting for you to accuse us of not reading your arguments just because we don't come to the same conclusions as you do. I agree with many things you say; your proposal would certainly do little harm. The reason that we aren't discussing your arguments is the point of disagreement is not discussed contained within them. I believe:

  • The system you propose will not motivate mature people at all (especially academics), and may actually discourage them.
  • Expert involvement is CZ's raison d'etre, so something that motivates teenagers but discourages experts would not be a step forward.

Here's a quick analogy to explain why your proposal could discourage people. Suppose I stopped by the side of the road and gave a stranded motorist a jump-start. I would be happy to do this for free as an act of charity. Now suppose that the motorist offered me $1. I assert that my happiness level would go down. Why would more money make me unhappy? Here are a few explanations:

  • People are trained to either treat a transaction as charity or as a job, but not both. Accepting the dollar would make it seem more like a job, and $1 is terrible pay.
  • Getting paid that amount implies that I did a really bad job and don't deserve more.

The two-sentence credit system would be like being paid $1. It's so patently unfair as a credit/motivation system that one would be better off without it.

3) Any chance of comments on my " weird variant"? I don't know if it's a good idea, but it might satisfy the desire of experts to get more substantial credit while retaining a collaborative culture.

Warren Schudy 23:25, 11 March 2008 (CDT)

Warren, a few brief replies. Your (1) was wholly unnecessary. Obviously we disagree, but I think I have handled the discussion pretty well; I have simply held my position politely but firmly. Clearly, my intransigence is making some people very angry. That's OK with me, though I'm not happy about the situation. Also, I didn't earn my position as Editor-in-Chief; I started the project, and declared myself Editor-in-Chief. I neither ask nor want any further legitimization of my authority from you or anyone else. Second, my main complaint isn't that you haven't read my arguments (that's merely been my guess), but that you haven't replied to them in any detail. But now I've given up hope that anyone ever really will do so. Oh well. Also, your analogy is very poor. A list of contributors is not intended to be (and can be properly labelled/billed so that it is not) a list of Big Important Authors. It is not any the sort of "payment" that a byline confers at all. That's my point, in fact. It is, at best, a very small incentive--by design. It is not the sort of incentive that an authorship byline confers. Whether this will motivate anyone is an empirical question that remains to be seen; I'm skeptical myself. What I do believe is that if we turn CZ into a project like Scholarpedia or Encyclopedia of Earth, with "lead authors" honored as such, we'll kill it. So it might turn out that we simply can't help ourselves to the incentive that you so much want to exist. Of course, I admit that I could be mistaken; it is an empirical question, after all. So we should do a test.

As to your "weird variant," the question that you all need to be debating, it seems to me, is exactly what other proposal will be piloted alongside mine. I am not sure you are all sufficiently on the same page. --Larry Sanger 00:41, 12 March 2008 (CDT)