This is essentially a follow-up on the questions about whether we are an expert site or not, such as Are we aiming to be an expert site? and Is expert level the same as difficult?. I see some answers that essentially point at a Wikipedia page. There are of course also comments that do the same. The eagerness to share findings is of course commendable and I would not like to put down the efforts as such. The problem is that Wikipedia is basically the first that comes up in a search on the keywords for any specific question so it would almost be a given that anyone posting a question would (or at least should) at least have checked this source for some information. Clearly we want more in-depth answers than what is commonly given on Wikipedia on most Earth Science topics. In addition, link only answers are not acceptable so linking to Wikipedia may be ok as long as there is a reasonable spelled out answer.

So, since the purpose here is to provide good quality answers to good questions, we need to convey that largely link-based answers without a good quality summary in text as an answer is not what we aim for here. Hence, how do we handle such Wikipedia-answers? I am not thinking in terms of downvoting or close-votes but in terms of reaching out to the persons asking. As an example, at TeX.sx a page of "standard" comments have been established to meet and greet new users and provide feedback on low quality Q-A.

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    $\begingroup$ One thing is that mods can put a "post notice" on a post; one of them is "insufficient explanation". I think that would work for some of these answers. $\endgroup$ – hichris123 May 18 '14 at 16:33
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    $\begingroup$ It takes time to build the shape and quality of a site and ES Meta is the place to see what the community thinks. $\endgroup$ – Peter Jansson May 18 '14 at 17:21
  • $\begingroup$ What about other sources? More than one of my answers consists of a summary of a chapter from the IPCC AR5 WG1 report. More authoritative than Wikipedia, but still a repetition of what could be found elsewhere. On the other hand, also harder to find than Wikipedia. $\endgroup$ – gerrit May 19 '14 at 15:57
  • $\begingroup$ To summarize a source or to condense and synthesise is, to me, a good way to provide an answer. In some way any answer that is not presenting completely new data is a repetition. $\endgroup$ – Peter Jansson May 19 '14 at 16:03
  • $\begingroup$ Is this an example of a "Wiki-Answer" and if not, what is? $\endgroup$ – blunders May 19 '14 at 16:24

Any answer that points to just some other page, is effectively not an answer. If the answer doesn't stand on its own merit, in the absence of the information at the other end of the link, then it's not an answer. We're trying to build a body of expert content here, not just a collection of signposts.

That means you've got several options. Please, as part of the site's curation, consider doing one or more of these:

  • downvote it
  • flag as "not an answer"
  • leave a comment politely pointing out that we are trying to build a body of expert content right here, not merely links to content elsewhere.

Also, wikipedia should not be considered a reliable source. Any link to wikipedia that doesn't include a specific revision number could end up pointing to anything: remember, anyone can edit wikipedia, and editorial policy is in the control of whoever's obsessed enough and has enough time. That's often not an expert. If there's any substance in a wikipedia article that's usable, then it will link to a cited source. So follow the link to the original cited source, find out what it actually said, and then cite that. And if the wikipeda content doesn't include a cited source, then consider it broadly unusable.


I consider the use of Wikipedia a "minimum" sourcing requirement.

Usually, there are better, more informed sites on a topic but not always. It's sad, but true, that Wikpedia sometimes represents the "best" source of information, even if it's not so great. Wikipedia typically has a compendium of basic facts, so anyone that has consulted Wikipedia for those facts has done "some" research.

Naturally, one wants to use the better sources when they exist. But when they don't, Wikipedia is a reasonable "stopgap."


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