Hi Benapgar - as you will have noticed from other contributors concerns have been flagged about the use of the fairness, accuracy etc tags. I am assuming a system like this is used in Wikipedia or some other wiki but am not clear on how it is used and any policies around it.
While I'm open to systems that enable readers to flag pages that they think need work I'm not sure what the system of flags you've added offers that is any better than the ability of users to post a note to the talk page.
As other users have noted, the addition of a flag could be abused in itself to unfairly and inaccurately raise doubts about the contents of a page without a user first having either posted a note to the talk page or attempted to edit the article to address their concerns. As well readers can email me if they have a specific concern and I try and address these promptly.
As editor it is one of my tasks to review posts, help new users meet our standards of referencing etc, address complaints and tidy up pages that need work.From what I have seen at SW over the last 18 months nearly all comments posted to the talk page raising concerns about articles (as distinct from undirected personal comments) have been addressed.
Given this is the case and, as other users have commented, the addition of the flags as a first port of call (rather than posting a note to the talk page or doing an edit) could inadvertently or deliberately have the effect of unfairly raising doubts about particular pages especially during critical periods of high traffic. Your selection of the ActivistCash article as being the first to flag without explanation has only heightened these concerns.
So I think myself and others would be more open to persuasion if there was some expanation as to how you see it making SW work better. At the moment I'm more inclined to see it creating more problems than it solves. I look forward to hearing from you how you see it helping. --Bob Burton 18:03, 7 Aug 2005 (EDT)
Well the best example I can give is my reasons for doing it in the first place. I visited Sourcewatch to learn about ActivistCash.com. An example of what I consider unfair is the rhetorical question in the article: How are activists "anti-choice" or "anti-consumer"? This is silly. This is an argument about activism, not about the organization. I cannot tell, based on the article, if this is contradicting the views of the organization, or if it is simply a rant by someone who disagrees with that characterization. This could be accurate and fair if the charactization could be inferred from the general stance of the organization, or if the organization has outright stated this characterization. However, no proof is provided. Rhetorical questions often get away with appeals like this. Another example on that page is the sentence: In reality, none of the information that ActivistCash "exposes" has ever been hidden. Does ActivistCash claim to be exposing "hidden" information? If so, this information is not contained within the article. It is written, it seems to me, as an editorial argument, not as information or comment about the organization--as opposed to against the organization. To me at least, the article is written for the most part like an editorial.
The thing is, I didn't want to research the organization, nor did I want to shift around the rhetoric in the article. I do not have enough information about the organizataion to do so without possibly introducing even more bias, nor do I want to take the time--I'm just not that interested. I'm sure a significant number of readers come to Sourcewatch with no intention of editing. This can cause problems of representation when readers visit Sourcewatch for "fair" and "accurate" information and are presented with information that may be neither fair nor accurate. A reader presented with information which is claimed to be "fair and accurate," and which is clearly not, may, if they are unfamiliar with this style of website, assume that the editors are no more trustworthy than "fair and balanced" Fox News. If readers are presented with information that the article "needs to be checked for fairness" (like the message box) then they can assume that the article is not necessarily representative of the "fairness and accuracy" of the site, and needs work to achieve fairness and accuracy. Simply acknowledging there may be a problem is better than assuming that all readers understand the way the website works.
I do agree that these message boxes can cause problems, and in fact they do. An editor may place the message on an article which is entirely fair or accurate, simply because they fail to recognize their own bias. However, if this person has no basis for their claim, and is not that "attached" to it the message can simply be removed. A persistent person can put up the "dispute" message, and the page can be discussed on the talk page. In fact, this could help you, if you wish to step in to resolve a dispute, by easily notifying you of disputes. (I don't know how to do that, but I'm sure there is a fairly easy way). Conversely, not providing for messages like these can allow editors to "sit" on articles with impunity, constantly re-introducing their bias, and not allowing new editors to contribute to the article. If ActivistCash, for example, had someone who worked for them sit on this article and constantly proclaim how great it was, readers would not be receiving fair and accurate information. I see this as a problem in wiki-type article websites. Witness the response to my placing a "This article should be checked for fairness" message on the ActivistCash article. The message was immediately removed and my concern was not only dismissed but I was told "Maybe you'll find the time to substantiate [your] claims, rather tha[n] simply us[ing] whistles and bells..." clearly insulting my concerns about the editorial style of that particular article.. I did not have time to go into detail about the editorial nature of the article (as I somewhat did above in explanation to you), and I also thought it would be obvious considering what I saw as a glaring example, the inappropriate use of a rhetorical question. The response tells me that if I were to now go back and spend the time researching and edit the article to my satisfaction, I know enough about the style of discourse on sites like this that I would be in for a drawn out fight about an organization I actually care little about, debating minutae on top of minutae until I give up in frustration. I would have zero support considering the relative obscurity of the article, having been edited once in the past year.
As for Wikipedia, they use messages like these extensively. There are messages for "neutral point of view", "factual accuracy," "expanding an article," "clean up," etc. These let editors know where concerns may be, and additionally let readers know that any problems with the article have been acknowledged and are in the process of being addressed, rather than giving readers the impression that this information is fair and accurate and misleading them or giving the cause to dismiss the article as entirely biased, and by association the rest of the articles on this site. Again, as an example, it would be quite easy for someone who reads the ActivistCash article to not only dismiss the article as unfair and inaccurate, but to dismiss all the articles as such, and finally to hold up that article as testimonial "proof" that SourceWatch is unfair and inaccurate. I think it is safe to assume that the majority of the people who contribute are left-wing, one of the reasons I like this website, as it deals with issues and information I'm concerned about and want to know more about. To have the site branded as containing biased articles towards the left however, is to do a disservice to all the editors here who are fair and accurate. One bad apple and all that.
This is a difficult issue, let me know if there's something here that needs clarifying and I'll do my best to respond.--Benapgar 19:06, 8 Aug 2005 (EDT)
I notice now that I re-read the ActivistCash article that the question is not rhetorical, however, I still believe it is inappropriate and/or poorly written. --Benapgar 19:37, 8 Aug 2005 (EDT)
And, just for more information and so I can gain a perspective on the views, could you point me to the discussion about message boxes like this? The only thing I can find is User:Hugh_Manatee's "complaint" which was to tell you he didn't like them and then vandalize Template:accuracy. --Benapgar 20:34, 8 Aug 2005 (EDT)
Hello, benapgar. I have to be quick here; and at this point I've skimmed but not carefully digested your posts here; but have a couple responses.
I recently started an article Templates to contain this very discussion. Not becuase these "flags" are "templates", but only hastily because it was the first thing which came to mind.
SourceWatch is not fully edited by any authoritative group. All of the articles are deficient in some way, as you discovered with your example. None of them ever get an "Approved" sticker. I understand without criticism your discomforts with the ActivistCash article. I didn't need a flag or template to help me come to that conclusion. And I wouldn't want to impose that view upon others, or even influence their own determinations.
I certainly share your disinterest in applying myself to improving that article. Sometimes I post a comment to the talk page stating so, and leave it to others. Talk pages have a lot of potential, as you've observed on Wikipedia.
Speaking of Wikipedia, there are many reasons to not compare it with SourceWatch. One which comes to mind in reading your notes above is that Wikipedia is an encyclopedia by the historic and formal definition thereof, in spite of its unique open digital contributorship. SourceWatch is not; SourceWatch is more of a collective collaborative set of notes; much more informal; much less formal editing. Each serve their separate purposes which should not be imposed upon the other.
--Maynard 22:58, 8 Aug 2005 (EDT)
Discussion continued on Templates