CZ Talk:Policy on Self-Promotion

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Regarding links to author-maintained websites

"You may not add links to articles with which you are associated. Instead, you must request that others do this for you (e.g., on the article's talk page). Adding such links will not count as a request; anyone who notices that you are associated with a website that you have linked from an article should remove the link to the talk page."

On a series of articles about the U.S. Constitution and related topics, I have added links to my site, to pages on my site with related information or, for example, full text of historical documents. In light of the above, is this not kosher? I did not add the links lightly - the information is truly related and backs up the article. If I add these links to the talk page, what guarantee is there (especially once there are tens of thousands of articles) that the links will ever be added? If they are added, should I never edit them? I think this policy works for some cases, but may be too restricting in others. steve802 14:00, 3 April 2007 (CDT)

First, let's consider existing links "grandfathered in." After all, I myself placed a link that violates the new policy on John Doherty (fiddler).  :-) Note though that while no one should remove previously-added links purely on grounds of this policy, they might still be reviewable and removable simply because other sources are better. No offense, but surely it's an open question whether you really have the best Web pages about the U.S. Constitution. Ultimately, we want to link to the best of the Web on every topic.
I think we need a series of operational "request"-type pages, such as CZ:Requests for link review, or perhaps something less specialized, like CZ:Requests for oversight. This way, if no one is coming to your assistance, you can ask for help. --Larry Sanger 14:29, 3 April 2007 (CDT)

Clarifying "closely associated"

I am thinking of writing an article on the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon), which is run by a substantially different group of people each year. The entity behind Worldcon is the World Science Fiction Society, whose membership is defined as the members of the next Worldcon (or current one when one is in progress).

I'm on the staff of this year's Worldcon. This definitely rules out writing an article about this specific convention. Should it bar me from ever writing something on the general history of Worldcon? I feel that it should not, but would like to get confirmation.

At the 2005 Worldcon, I was a participant in one program item out of hundreds. Does that mean I also can't write anything specific about that convention? I don't feel this is "closely associated", but again, I'd like to get a ruling. Petréa Mitchell 23:16, 27 April 2007 (CDT)

This is actually a good question for the Topic Informant Workgroup (you could put the question on their talk page, perhaps). Personally, I don't see anything wrong with your writing about the general history of Worldcon--if, as you imply, you were a central part of that history. If you were, you could still write a history, but we would place it in the "TI" namespace and it would become reference material for us. --Larry Sanger 07:55, 28 April 2007 (CDT)
Er, well, I'm trying to say I'm not a central part of that history. Not even this year-- I'm just going to be sitting behind the information desk a lot... Petréa Mitchell
a staff member at Worldcon certainly can write about it without risk of "self promotion" We need that kind of expertise.Richard Jensen 23:58, 25 March 2008 (CDT)

Role of experts is central to CZ

To the extent that CZ is built around experts, it is built around their expertise, which is typically expressed in books, articles and websites. We want the expertise in the text of the article, so we want the citations to that expertise that readers can use. The older version of the rule seemed to say that the author can include his expert opinion in the text of an article, but must keep secret from readers where to find the full exposition that is in print or on the web. Self-promotion does not mean to prohibit the expression of an expert's conclusions on a topic. As for asking other people to insert references, that is embarrassing and impractical. Asking a non-expert to insert material defies the premise that authors understand the material they are inserting. We do have editors who can monitor the articles to make sure that unsuitable self-promotion does not happen. Richard Jensen 07:43, 12 September 2007 (CDT)

I don't think we're very far apart, if we can agree on the most recent edit. Of course the role of experts is central to CZ. In fact, the importance of expert knowledge is what motivated the policy in the first place: self-promotion might well make the resource as a whole less reliable and less representative of actual expert opinion. I think we agree about all of this, however. Richard says, "Self-promotion does not mean to prohibit the expression of an expert's conclusions on a topic." Actually, I think it might, in some cases--when an expert's view is idiosyncratic and not really owed the prominence the article gives it. Others are a better judge of this than the person himself. But as long as the article says, as it does now say, that a resource must be "a major resource regarding the topic" if it is all right for a person to add it in himself, then that's all right. Provisionally speaking of course.
The first sentence added, "This rule does not prevent promotion of your ideas, only your personality," is simply too vague to be included as part of policy. --Larry Sanger 12:04, 12 September 2007 (CDT)

Don't Kill the Messenger

It seems to me that this policy against expert contribution will cripple Citizendium in much the same way that it has crippled the Wikipedia.

Instead Citizendium should adopt the standard scientific policy of requiring disclosure of contributor interest (instead of relying on prior censorship). In other words, contributions should be judged on their merits regardless of contributor but the interests of contributors must be disclosed.

Professor Kyle Gann [2007] remarked about why he permanently left the Wikipedia:

If there is a permanent structural problem in using my own research and expertise, what possible incentive could I have to continue? What would I want to write about except my own areas of expertise?

Given the dismal history of the Wikipedia, if Citizendium does not adopt the standard scientific policy then it has no chance with experts (including academics).--Carl Hewitt 20:29, 25 March 2008 (CDT)

Would anyone like to help draft a "Don't Kill the Messenger" policy as a replacement for the current policy? Perhaps some of the language from journals, etc. that have this policy can be adapted.--Carl Hewitt 10:37, 26 March 2008 (CDT)

Interesting observation but is there actually a policy here that prevents Users writing about their own work? Approval would have to be by independent editors so it is unlikely that bias would go unchecked. Chris Day 11:05, 26 March 2008 (CDT)

Good point. Another other bug with the current policy is that it encourages deception and indirection as those who want to speak in areas that touch their interests must recruit spokespeople. Often the spokespeople are not as competent as the principals. So we end up with obfuscation. It's better to allow the principals to speak but to require them to declare their interests.
"Don't kill the messenger." is the current policy in science and I assume that it applies to most other branches of academia.
Also "Don't kill the messenger" actually makes it easier to weed out cranks and spammers because they must declare their interests.--Carl Hewitt 13:50, 27 March 2008 (CDT)

What we need to do here is define clearly what our possible point of disagreement is. On the one hand, Carl, you are proposing that we require people to declare their interests in a topic. I agree with that. Why don't you propose some precise language we can use? Possibly we can get this approved by the Editorial Council "by acclamation," as I doubt anyone will have any objection. On the other hand, you seem to be saying that once we have that policy in place, it will no longer be necessary to--what? What specific text in the present policy page should be removed? Or instead of removing something, are you saying that we should add a paragraph or two clarifying whether and how scholars may discuss their own work? I don't see anything in the document that specifically addresses that, other than that one cannot cite books and articles unless they are "a major resource regarding the topic." (Is that what you object to, by the way?)

The usual practices of science, or even academia generally, may not be applicable in an open wiki. You are talking, after all, about peer-reviewed papers, where a reviewer and an editor can carefully judge issues on their merits. When we are working on an open wiki, stuff is published instantly, unreviewed. This is obviously a difference that makes a difference.

As you think about this, you should also bear in mind CZ:Policy on Topic Informants. That is an integral part of how we deal with the whole issue of conflict of interest, and note that I do not say that originators of certain theories or research findings should be topic informants about those findings; this can and should be clarified, though. --Larry Sanger 14:32, 27 March 2008 (CDT)

Thanks for your perceptive remarks. The point is that the self in self promotion is pretty much irrelevant. Instead of focusing on the messenger, the focus should be on the message. Of course, the source of the message is relevant. But the relevance is that the interests must be disclosed so that the message can be properly evaluated.
The policy of "Don't kill the messenger" applies quite broadly in academia, not just peer-reviewed papers. As long as the interests of contributors are disclosed, I don't see a problem with their contributing to an open wiki. The disclosure makes it easier to detect possible abuses. And the principles involved should have the best knowledge and greatest incentives to get it right.
So I propose canning the prohibition on "self promotion." We need to establish a sound policy of disclosure of interests.--Carl Hewitt 15:08, 27 March 2008 (CDT)
That's opening up the door to advertising and marketing articles that have absolutely no place here. Disclosure or no disclosure, I'm not sure I want some ego-centric toolbox writing an article about how great they think they are. --Robert W King 15:10, 27 March 2008 (CDT)
We still have issues with "promotion"? It's just the exclusive ego-centric focus that is problematical. The history of the Wikipedia shows that that we also have a giant problem with contributions from competitors and detractors. So we need disclosure of all interests. For example, if an article praises and/or criticizes someone or their behavior, we want the contributors to be identifying their interests.
We also need a policy on "promotion and detraction".--Carl Hewitt 17:02, 27 March 2008 (CDT)

In other words, simply delete this page? Please, let's not talk in the abstract. Are you sure there is nothing on this page that you would want to keep, in any form? --Larry Sanger 15:12, 27 March 2008 (CDT)

A good example

I started on article on thioaptamer, for which my boss in one of the world experts, and listed a handle of references to his papers. I happen to be lead author on one of them, which was the first use of them targeting the immune system. Because our group plays a large role in this area, it would seem to me that I should be able to first start the article, and then to also include a fairly seminal paper on the topic, even though I am the first author. I find this particularly true when it is a peer-reviewed scientific paper. David E. Volk 11:02, 26 March 2008 (CDT)

I agree, just like when writing a review one tends to cite their own work. Does citizendium really discourage this? In the time I have been here I have not got that impression. Chris Day 11:07, 26 March 2008 (CDT)

I also agree. I don't think that the policy prevents one from summarizing one's own research. In fact, if you can find a rule that says one cannot do that, please quote it here, because I couldn't find it. We dealt with this objection last year and the policy was duly rewritten and approved by the Editorial Council. Carl, I wouldn't want to see the policy simply replaced, because what you call the "standard scientific policy" is not understood or used by 90% of the contributors here, who are not professional scientists. The vast majority of people to whom this policy could possibly apply will be people with trade books to sell, business owners, marketers, etc., as well as cranks, not to mention legitimate scholars who happen to have an unrealistically high opinion of their own work. A lot of the details here are addressed to them. --Larry Sanger 12:40, 26 March 2008 (CDT)

Thanks for the comments. I wanted to be sure I wasn't self-promoting. David E. Volk 13:06, 26 March 2008 (CDT)

Text clarification needed?

My sense, from the discussion above, is that our rules are not intended to have the effect that Carl is worried about; i.e. preventing academics from citing their own work - especially if that work was published in a refereed journal. Also, if our rules did have that effect, I get the sense that most people would join Carl in being quite concerned. So, do we need to change/improve the text at all, to make it clear that this isn't the intent of this policy? (I'm too tired to review the text right now, I'll try and come back to it when I'm fresh.) J. Noel Chiappa 23:36, 29 March 2008 (CDT)

The question on the table is "Where is there going to be a friendly place for principals?" By policy, Citizendium is not that place. Citizendium may have warm fuzzy feelings and good intentions towards principals. But the Citizendium policy is against principals. So, in this respect, Citizendium is only slightly less bad than the Wikipedia, which actively persecutes principals.
It may well be that something like Google Knol will win by default in creating a community that is friendly to principals.--Carl Hewitt 02:33, 30 March 2008 (CDT)
I disagree with Carl. Most scholars I know are eager to publicize the topics the spend their careers studying. They can see that CZ is not a learned journal, but publishers have been issuing encyclopedias in great number in recent years. Scholars certainly do write for them, and for modest pay. I co-edited a set in 2005 and the usual pay was about $150 for 1000 words, so the main lure was not payscale. Indeed many authors told me their deans and department heads were demanding annual listings of the articles they had written and hence this work was very advantageous to their career. I'm not talking about Yale professors, but those PhD's at Southwest Nebraska State. Richard Jensen 03:48, 30 March 2008 (CDT)
I agree with Richard, except for the part where he said that he disagrees with me ;-) The question is "Is Citizendium policy against scholars acting as principals?"--Carl Hewitt 10:36, 30 March 2008 (CDT)
Until you can explain to us exactly what parts of the policy you want changed, Carl, it's hard for us to make headway. We are friendly toward principals, I assert. If you disagree, and you think we should change a policy so that you can agree, then you are obligated to tell us exactly what parts of the policy lead you to believe we are unfriendly toward principals, so we can consider changing that policy. Again, do you simply want us to delete this entire page? --Larry Sanger 12:05, 30 March 2008 (CDT)
Carl, the thing I'm grappling with is that the comments above (e.g. from David E. Volk, in the section #A good example) seem to me to indicate that our intent is exactly what you'd like to see - i.e. to be 'friendly' to principals? Am I missing something?
The point of my original post in this section was to try to separate this into two questions: what our real intent is (which I believe to be, on the basis of comments like David's, basically what you'd like to see), and then how that intent is expressed in words.
So, before I think about the words, can I ask if the intent (as expressed in David's example) is what you'd like to see, or do you think we need to go further? If so, can you please give an example so I can understand it better? Would you, for example, like people to be able to put original research in here? (E.g., if I researched some aspect of Internet history and wrote it up here?) J. Noel Chiappa 12:17, 30 March 2008 (CDT)
Noel, I like your idea of focusing on our intent before proceeding with word smithing. It's probably better for Citizendium to retain the policy of prohibiting original research.
However, suppose that you authored a scholarly article on Internet history that was published elsewhere. Then you ought to be able to report on this publication here without being accused of self-promotion provided that
  1. the reporting is fair and balanced with respect to other work.
  2. you disclose your interest in authoring the article as well as any interests related to the content of the article.
However, it looks like your reporting on the article here would be against the current language of the policy on self-promotion, which is biased in favor of attempting to intimidate authoring principals with prior and post censorship while doing nothing about competing and detracting principals.
Regards, --Carl Hewitt 13:35, 30 March 2008 (CDT)
My impression is that while the text may be read to give another impression, my strong sense is that our intent is definitely not to prohibit me from "report[ing] on this publication here". See, for example, the comments from David, Chris, Larry (with which I also agree) in the section above), which appear to discuss an exactly parallel case, with everyone agreeing that it's OK for David to refer to that paper.
So I'm suspecting that we're all on the same page with regard to 'intent', and maybe all we need to do is make sure the 'text' clearly indicates that intent to all readers. Perhaps some examples might help? (I still haven't read the page, been busy with 17 other things! I will try to do so as soon as I'm done with lunch.) J. Noel Chiappa 13:59, 30 March 2008 (CDT)

Looking at these examples seems to be very helpful. So let's consider some more cases.

  • 1. Suppose that you are a world expert on the history of the Internet and have written the standard text in the field. Further suppose that Citizendium does not have an article on the "History of the Internet." Then it is OK for you to start a new (i.e. previously unpublished) article for Citizendium on the history of the Internet that cites material from your book provided that it is fair and balanced in content and cites other sources as well.
  • 2. A paid publicist of a medium-sized computer company (that previously does not have an article in Citizendium) starts a new (i.e. previously unpublished) article for Citizendium. This OK provided that:
  • It is not advertising
  • It is not original research; i.e., it is directly based on highly reputable published sources
  • It is fair and balanced
  • It is understood that critical as well as favorable material will be included in the article
  • The publicist discloses their interest.
  • 3. An employee of a large company adds factual material to a Citizendium article on their company defending the conduct of the company against criticism already in the article. This is OK provided that:
  • The employee discloses their interest
  • The added material is not original research; i.e., it is directly based on highly reputable published sources
  • The added material is not advertising
  • The added material is concise, scholarly, and to the point.
  • 4. An employee of a political campaign adds factual material to a Citizendium article on a competing candidate that could be considered to be critical of the competing candidate. This is OK provided that:
  • The employee discloses their interest
  • The added material is not original research; i.e., it is directly based on highly reputable published sources
  • The added material is not advertising
  • The added material is concise, scholarly, and to the point.

What do you think?--Carl Hewitt 15:52, 30 March 2008 (CDT)

So does everyone agree with the above analysis of the cases? The analysis doesn't seem to be in accord with the current wording of our policies.--Carl Hewitt 02:05, 5 April 2008 (CDT)

ok with me, EXCEPT drop the lines about original research. That is Wikipedia rule that we have revised (only material that should first be published in a scholarly journal counts as undesired original research.) ...said Richard Jensen (talk) 02:23, 5 April 2008
Good point. Where can I find our current policy on original research? Thanks,--Carl Hewitt 02:35, 5 April 2008 (CDT)
Well, I guess that Citizendium does not have a policy on original research. This seems a bit strange.--Carl Hewitt 15:28, 8 April 2008 (CDT)
That's not quite true, there is a CZ:Signed Articles subpage that was to accommodate original research, although the idea was to separate it from the article itself. There was a discussion on this in the forum, possibly more than one. I'll try and find them. Chris Day 23:11, 10 April 2008 (CDT)
There was a fair amount of discussion about creating one, but it's still in a draft stage. The discussion is here: CZ Talk:Original Research Policy. J. Noel Chiappa 12:58, 11 April 2008 (CDT)

I added some numbers to the above so I could comment. On (1): yes. The policy as currently written clearly and explicitly permits this. On (2): no. Paid publicists simply may not start or even edit articles about their clients. They may become topic informants; the topic informant system was set up for this sort of case. On (3): no. This is similar in analysis to (2). The person should become a topic informant. On (4): no. Again, this is a case where we have reasonable presumption that the person has a conflict of interest, and should again become a topic informant and submit suggestions and corrections either on a talk page or in the TI: namespace.

The various caveats below each case, such as "It is not advertising," do not help. If we could identify and agree upon cases where those caveats would apply, we wouldn't need the rules in the first place. The whole strength of the proposed changes in policy then come down to the question, "Who is authorized to make final decisions in cases of controversy?" As Editor-in-Chief, I simply don't want to have to deal wtih such controversies at all: we are not going to have any mechanism that determines that Microsoft's publicist (for example) was biased in adding a certain bit of text to an article. If the topic is that important, people who do not have a stake in Microsoft should be locatable, who can write the article. We avoid all manner of political controversy--controversy that would be, of course, perfectly predictable under the proposed system--if we do not pretend that the players themselves can write as equal collaborators about topics in which they have a personal stake. We also avoid the inevitable criticism for our reliability: "That article was written by Microsoft's PR department. They admit it!"

It is crucial that any contrary proposals clearly be addressed to the purpose of this policy on self-promotion. Think of it like this. Would you find Britannica more or less credible if you found that their article titled "Microsoft Corporation" had been written by Microsoft's PR department? Before you answer, suppose that Britannica told you: "This article has undergone stringent vetting. It is not advertising; it is directly based on highly reputable published sources; in our opinion, it is fair and balanced; critical material is included in the article; and we are very open about the fact that Microsoft's PR department wrote it."

We can learn two things from this imaginary situation. First, we would be likely to tell Britannica: we don't believe you. When you say it is based on reputable sources, for example, who says they're reputable? Microsoft? In short, this line would reduce the credibility of Britannica. Second, while a top-down organization like Britannica might be able to navigate the editorial shoals created by such obvious conflicts of interest, it would be an order of magnitude more difficult for an open, collaborative project to do so. Speaking as a long-time manager of Internet communities, it's really just a non-starter. It's going to be hard enough to deal with controversy over how articles that affect companies' bottom lines (and various persons' reputations) should be worded. We would compound our difficulties significantly if we were to let company representatives (and the subjects of biographies) to edit articles directly.

We do in fact have a policy on original research, but it is in a brief form, here: CZ:Approval Standards. Discussion of how to expand and clarify it has gone on here and I think in the forums. --Larry Sanger 13:31, 11 April 2008 (CDT)

Why did you remove my text?

Daniel, I don't understand why you removed my text. I think it is important to have. Certainly, it is a *very* major step to ask that an article be deleted -- it would *certainly* have to be OKed by the EC. Why not make this clear? Hayford Peirce 01:22, 29 July 2011 (UTC)

No idea how that happened - I was not aware of this change, had only been focused on the Citizendium part. Sorry, and fixed. --Daniel Mietchen 02:07, 29 July 2011 (UTC)
Update: I checked and saw that I had looked at this diff and then edited from there, without noticing that a "newer edit" link was present. Strange, though, that I didn't notice I was editing an old version. --Daniel Mietchen 02:18, 29 July 2011 (UTC)
Ah, thanks! I've done the same thing myself in times past and could never figure out what happened! Hayford Peirce 02:39, 29 July 2011 (UTC)