Wikinews:Water cooler/proposals/archives/2017/February

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Direct-to-archive status for articles failed solely on freshness grounds

Given the title of this query it's hard to run a search to see if it's been proposed before, but I'm seeing a lot of articles that fail review solely because they are no longer fresh, even if they were when submitted. What if we create some sort of intermediate direct-to-archive option that would bypass the main page? To avoid clogging (and any cases of someone writing a news article about something that happened years earlier, which could be a problem because "news" invites the reader to think that the article was written by a contemporary of the event), we could simply require that the material must be fresh at the time of writing.

The way I see it, this would best not apply retroactively. A reviewer might see thatn an article must be rejected on freshness grounds and then not expend any time checking it for other problems. A reviewer who knows that direct-to-archive is an option may act differently. Darkfrog24 (talk) 21:50, 16 February 2017 (UTC)

Variants of the idea have been proposed, and were shot down, decisively. A news article is a snapshot in time. It's what the event looked like when it happened, and is impossible to judge later. From another angle, the archive is a record of articles that were actually published, and pretending otherwise would be embedding lies into the archive. Just incidentally (I've come to realize, more recently I think than the last time such things were brought up), the freshness cut-off prevents us from becoming a hellscape of protracted arguments for failed articles. --Pi zero (talk) 22:48, 16 February 2017 (UTC)
Creating a "this article was direct-to-archive" tag that expressly tells the reader that it was publishable but not published should address this "lies" issue.
The hellscape matter has many possible meanings. Perhaps I will find it more interpreble in the morning. What I'm getting now is something to the effect of "Because we have the option of just letting an article time out we can avoid telling an author things like 'your article sucks for reason X.'" Darkfrog24 (talk) 01:49, 17 February 2017 (UTC)

I have held a theory for some time, that a common reason some Wikipedians are ultimately unable to make the conceptual leap to become Wikinewsies (though others have no problem achieving dual citizenship) is that they become trapped in a perception of review as a (basically dickish) obstacle to the efforts of the (basically angelic) writer to make their contribution. From the interpretation you've put on what I said, it appears you're, at least so far, still trapped in such a perception. Unfortunately, I don't actually know how to cure the misapprehension about review; at my first glimmerings of the insight I wrote the paragraph now at the top of my user page, and it's sort of hinted at in the first pillar at WN:PILLARS, but when push comes to shove I only know enough to recognize the problem, not so much how to help someone stuck in the trap to climb out of it.

No, putting a notice on articles done this way doesn't solve the problem. It shifts the problem around a bit, and the problem them pops up in other spots all over the infrastructure — because the infrastructure is a gestalt. Try to follow the connections, and one is led round in dizzying circles. Let's see. It's a point of pride for us that when we make a mistake we own up to it, but it's also a point of pride that so few articles in our archives have correction notices on them. It's basic to the news ethic that news is vetted before publication — an article that hasn't been reviewed is inherently not news, even in the very unlikely case that a carefully done review wouldn't change a word of it — with the fundamental conviction that we will move heaven and earth to avoid publishing anything wrong (and then we'll make a point of owning up to any mistakes made). You'll notice, perhaps, the profound contrast not just with Wikipedian workflow but with Wikipedian philosophical underpinnings; not all the philosophical underpinnings, but some of them that would otherwise cause the sort of contempt for review I mentioned earlier. If you decide one of the things you're trying to get right (freshness) doesn't really matter that much after all — which isn't so, it really does matter hugely, it's not possible to produce later an article that one would have produced if time had not already passed, hence such articles don't belong on Wikinews (history is the province of Wikipedia, with its fundamentally different workflow going hand in hand with its fundamentally different objectives) — but, suspending disbelief, if you were to decide freshness didn't "really" matter, you'd open yourself up for users to relitigate every article not-ready'd; no, alas, I'm not exaggerating. First, reviewers, who already have too many demands on their volunteer time or you wouldn't be making the proposal in the first place, would have the additional burden of making subjective decisions as to which problems with an article do and don't "count" against the "no problems except having lost freshness" thing (in an earlier draft of this post, I extensively discussed how minimizing subjective decisions is at the core of Wikinews while maximizing them is at the core of Wikipedia; it's easily worth a couple of hundred words). That adds massively to the already-overwhelming complexity of review, and it's piling up subjective judgements. Reviewers would have an awful time trying to enforce it, with newbies lobbying for exceptions and arguing fine points, and notice that this new interplay between writer and reviewer is adversarial; anyone who would relish adversarial review, we don't want as a reviewer. Then, if we can still pretend this is at all viable so far, there's still more work for the reviewers to vet the remaining articles for everything-but-freshness, making this (realistically impossible) decision about which problems disqualify the article irrevocably versus which ones get addressed some other way, and, up until one hits a "stop" signal, doing all the massively burdensome checking that one does on a full review except that this time one has to do it all with the knowledge that it's not even real because one isn't going to produce a published article, just a make-believe mark in the archives. Even given the preceding suspensions of disbelief, that's impossible another two times over, once because of the massive amount of additional work you're making for reviewers with much less incentive since it doesn't even produce a real publication at the end, and a second time because of the psychological impossibility for the reviewer of really putting their heart into this stale review process. Add at least another half or so to the impossibility count because these added stale-reviews include lots of really dreadful reviews; it's a basic fact of review that the hardest reviews are of submissions by inexperienced contributors, and those will be disproportionately represented. In practice you'd never keep up with the backlog, and unreviewed stale articles would simply accumulate. What can we do about that? How about a time limit on how long they'll be kept around before giving up on them. Oh, wait, we already have that; it's called freshness. And if you're thinking, why not have two time limits, that's easy: because (still ignoring the fundamental objection to stale news) if there were any spare reviewer time to put into articles that will never be actual news, there would never have been a motive for the proposal in the first place. (Oh, I've been so busy discussing how the change would create massive additional work for the already-overwhelmed reviewers, I've neglected to discuss how it would distract writers into putting effort into saving articles that will never be news instead of taking what they've learned and reapplying to write actual news. Well, that's just icing on the cake.)

I was going to try to summarize all that... absurd amounts of additional demand on volunteer reviewers who already have less than zero additional labor to offer, gratuitous conflict, unsustainable standards, monotonically increasing backlog, distraction of writers from news production... I think "not a good idea, after all" sums it up nicely. --Pi zero (talk) 07:01, 17 February 2017 (UTC)

I do enjoy your theories. I will block out some time to read this later. Maybe lunch break. Darkfrog24 (talk) 13:53, 17 February 2017 (UTC)
Oooooooh-kay. By "avoiding telling people their article sucks," I mean it gives you an option to avoid hurting the person's feelings. "It's out of date so there's no need to discuss anything else that is or isn't wrong with it." Instead of having to win an argument or convince someone of something, you can simply wait it out passively.
As to whether fact-checking is dickish, of course it's not. But it is a little counterintuitive that the news part of project Wiki is so slow.
It looks like you might have misunderstood what I'm proposing. I'm not saying that the articles be sent to the archive without review. I'm saying that an article could be reviewed and sent to the archive rather than reviewed and sent to the main page. Your snapshot-in-time concern would refer to when the article was written, not when it was archived, so it would not be an issue here. So long as the reviewer makes no substantive changes, the snapshot remains accurate.
As for "stale" articles accumulating, what would be wrong with that? They sit in the archive or they sit in a vestibule. Are we short on storage space? As for time limits, this wouldn't need one.
It sounds as though you personally would find doing this extremely frustrating and that's not what you want to do with your time. I'm absolutely not supporting any idea that reviewers would be required to work on direct-to-archive articles if they don't want to. Darkfrog24 (talk) 14:34, 17 February 2017 (UTC)
Well, a couple of remarks. (You know how you made that remark above and I replied about six hours later? I didn't come late to that; the whole six hours was spent trying to draft a reply, and it got scrapped and restarted several times. Clearly I can't afford that now; although, I have the advantage of having already said a bunch of things up there.)
  • Reviewing isn't fact-checking, although it certainly includes that. Even the fact-checking thing isn't remotely straightforward; no source is above suspicion for possible bias, error, or downright misinformation. The recent fuss over whether Wikipedia is to consider the Daily Mail a reliable source? Kind of meaningless for Wikinews; there's no such thing as a reliable source here; we speak of "trust-worthy" sources, and trust is a relative thing. Of course Daily Mail can be used as a source; we also don't assume something is true just because a source says it. I recall (or, think I do) from some articles we did a while back involving the OECD that their highest literacy rating — "level 5", I think — achieved by only a rather tiny fraction of the population, was the ability to examine sources and judge their likely relative merits. Which we do all the time on Wikinews. "Fact-checking" just doesn't cover it. And that's just the simplest part of the deep end of the pool; when things start edging over toward neutrality, and you get into things like when and how to attribute, and how to handle contradictions between sources, and when you realize there really isn't any cut-and-dired checklist for what might need doing... well.
  • Somehow, something important about my big comment above got lost in transmission. Not only am I aware that you're not proposing to send articles to the archive without review, most of the catastrophic meltdown I was discussing is a consequence, direct or indirect, of the review involved.
  • It seems you've a strong tendency to take my personal opinions as, well, just some opinionated individual mouthing off. It is very nearly (but perhaps not quite) too obvious to bother saying that I am in fact an opinionated individual mouthing off. But, something perhaps to think about. What I'm doing on Wikinews, the past few years? To be clear: I'm creating tools that I've concluded we must have to aid review in order to open up the flow of our workflow, and in order to keep the project going while I work on those tools I'm taking on as much of our review shortfall as I humanly can in the meantime. There are a passel of ways that could go wrong, with one person in that position, and I've kept the whole mess of them in mind since I started. One of the subtlest is that the en.wn infrastructral gestalt is a living tradition, and in doing this I'm volunteering to provide a conduit for a larger part of that whole living tradition that would ordinarily pass through the bottleneck of any one person. For it work, that one person has to have some peculiar characteristics. They have to systematically take in the gestalt, coming as close as they can to holding the whole at once (not altogether possible, but they have to try anyway), and this may result in the individual sometimes wandering around in a daze delivering soliloquies about system dynamics and gestalt and whatnot. And, they have to be willing to subordinate themselves to the living tradition they're trying to serve as a conduit for. It takes a certain ego to try to do this, but... when I start delivering these soliliquies about system dynamics and gestalt and whatnot, I'm consciously suppressing my own idiosyncracies to consider the roles of reviewers, reporters, etc. in the abstract.
--Pi zero (talk) 16:20, 17 February 2017 (UTC)
I don't think you're mouthing off but yes you're certainly opinionated. So am I. There's nothing wrong with that. I enjoy a spirited talk.
Your last bullet point is kind of fraying at the edges. Do you mean you personally have some kind of official position here? I was under the impression that you're a de facto gatekeeper solely because there are so few reviewers and that this would automatically melt away if more people showed up and qualified. Example: Clearly you're against a direct-to-archive option but if BRS and two more reviewers showed up and said "Sounds good!" we'd go forward with it.
Regarding you and opinions, there was a time, many years ago, when you told me something and I accepted it as fact, reversing the position that I had held before talking to you, because you sounded so very knowledgeable. Then over the course of several months I read a lot of sources that said something very different and came to the conclusion that you were probably wrong on that one point. This means that, with you specifically, I'm careful about adopting the conclusions you espouse. I absolutely don't assume you're wrong, but I don't automatically replace my judgment with yours any more either. The flip side of that is that I changed my mind by reading sources before and, especially where Project Wiki is concerned, am not against doing it again. If you ever feel the need to convince me that something is bigger than your opinion—and it is okay for people to have personal opinions; nothing should be tossed away without consideration for being "just" an opinion—just show me some sources or evidence. Consider it a standing invitation. Darkfrog24 (talk) 16:37, 17 February 2017 (UTC)
It's possible to take someone's claims too seriously, but it's also possible to take them too lightly. And subject... matters. You're dealing with a living tradition, for which there is no substitute for a living source. (I first encountered the whole living tradition thing in undergrad courses on history of science; apparently Hellenistic science fell apart for lack of teacher–student continuity.)

I also notice you tend to treat some of the basic principles of Wikinews too lightly. The platonic realm is not uniform; it's not all arbitrary and mix-and-match. Which is part, but only part, of why your picture of changing something like this is a bit casual as well. There's also something here about practical social structure of small projects. Smaller projects are... different, about changing fundamental principles. I truly don't know quite how to articulate this, as a broad principle, though I understand it. Something to do with weight of history, perhaps, on which Wikipedia is weak. At any rate, I think you'd find veteran Wikinewsies, regardless of inclination for or against your proposal, would agree you're proposing a profound change to project policy, and I don't think any of us would try to push forward with it if one of the others were truly not on board. If I were in favor and BRS opposed, I'd back off. I'm fairly sure BRS would do the same if I'm not on board (which of course I'm not).

Overall, I think you're underestimating how much you don't get about Wikinews, and how much of what you don't get really has to come from someone plugged into the living tradition. --Pi zero (talk) 18:49, 17 February 2017 (UTC)

I'm interested in knowing which principles you think I treat too lightly and any specific cases if you can remember them. Even if nothings' wrong, we can always do better.
I don't see this proposal as changing a principle so much as adding an option that wouldn't require building a lot of new infrastructure.
So here's something I notice about this conversation: You can consider me someone with many years of experience on a similar project, Wikipedia. I've been contributing to Wikinews for about two months, to good effect. I've been asking questions and receiving answers. Sometimes I've been providing answers. And here you are saying that, despite all these qualifications, there is still an immense body of amorphous unwritten tradition that is standing between me and being a far more effective member of the team than I currently am such as but not limited to qualifying to be a reviewer (my inference).
...and Wikinews would really work a lot better if it had a lot more people, especially reviewers.
This suggests to me that the rendering the culture of Wikinews less amorphous, more accessible or both would be a very good thing. Maybe that's what we should be talking about. Darkfrog24 (talk) 19:25, 17 February 2017 (UTC)
Culture can't be written down. Literally, can't. That was the point about Hellenistic science; there is no substitute for directly interaction between teachers and students. There were some individual geniuses late in the game who figured out some pretty cool stuff (as I recall they were flirting with Newton's laws); but without a continuous living tradition it couldn't be sustained and carried forward. And then about a thousand years later, in rediscovering ancient mathematics in Europe, there were years (I can never quite remember how many) of controversy while they tried to figure out how to understand "the sum of the interior angles of a triangle is 180 degrees" because they weren't sure what "interior angles of a triangle" meant. Small news sites, so I'm told, also tend not to well-document their procedures since they're too busy doing things to write about what they're doing. When things do get written down, what is more readily written down, unlike culture, is bureaucratic red tape. Lots of which is written down at Wikipedia, to its detriment. (When on occasion Wikipedians have come here and accused us of being bureaucratic, it just took my breath away; not unlike listening to Donald Trump talk about fake news.) Occasionally we do manage to get something written down that we hadn't managed before; like WN:Newsworthiness, ideas that had been batted around for many years. I've been thinking for several years of attempting to write an essay explaining neutrality better than our policy page.

Wikipedia is not a similar project to Wikinews; after many years here I've been able to identify things the two have in common, but years of experience on Wikipedia doesn't prepare you for Wikinews. (We do have a page Wikinews:For Wikipedians, though.) Oh, it helps with wiki markup, and some of the interpersonal skills; but the culture sheer is something terrific. "Neutrality" is a big deal on both projects, but means something very different so that Featured Articles on either project can completely fail neutrality on the other. The words "synthesis" and "analysis" mean nearly (but perhaps not quite) opposite things on one project versus the other. "OR" stands for somewhat similar but different things and on one project it's bad while on the other it's good. A line brianmc has sometimes used is "You're not in Kansas anymore."

A story I've sometimes recounted (not impossible I have told it to you before). I'd heard of Wikipedia for several years before I first edited it; I didn't take it seriously because I'd been in plenty of Boston subway stations and seen the graffiti (to say nothing of those stations' bathrooms). I edited it once, without an account (corrected a typo iirc), it invited me to register an account, and I figured if I ever had occasion to edit it again, I would register. About a year later I registered. And I approached it with an explicit assumption that nothing I had ever learned about social interactions and human behavior would apply, since if the things I thought I knew were true, Wikipedia would have failed long since. It rapidly became clear it would be absurd for me to try to read all the policies guidelines help pages and whatnot, there looked to be an encyclopedia's worth just of meta-pages, so I figured on hanging around, watching and occasionally editing, and hopefully I'd start to pick up the culture by osmosis. About a year later I had my first big insight into the nature of AGF (the insight was that it doesn't mean what it says), and a year after that I felt I had some handle on what AGF actually did mean (though it was several years after that before I grokked how it damages Wikipedia; but that's another story). Meanwhile, the better part of a year after joining Wikipedia I joined Wikibooks, and it was very clear that project was profoundly different, so, just as I'd started out on Wikipedia assuming nothing I'd learned before would necessarily apply, I did the same on Wikibooks, including assuming nothing I'd learned on Wikipedia. About a year after that I started out on Wikinews, a place so surreal that, not only was AGF (which I'd been given to understand on Wikipedia was absolutely necessary to a wiki's existence) not officially adopted, as it was not officially adopted on Wikibooks, but in fact AGF was rejected as incompatible with news production. And I did what had worked on Wikipedia and then Wikibooks: I assumed that nothing I had learned would necessarily apply, and especially not things I'd learned on Wikipedia or Wikibooks. It was about a year later before I felt comfortable enough to venture a comment in a water cooler discussion. So. Some of the things you learned at Wikipedia will apply here, but a lot of it will just mislead you. --Pi zero (talk) 22:09, 17 February 2017 (UTC)

(Not that it matters, but some of my figures are off by a year on Wikipedia; I was forgetting, my first account there was not "Pi zero", and what I learned after my first year was that the social dynamics are easier using a pseudonym.) --Pi zero (talk) 22:16, 17 February 2017 (UTC)
Even if culture itself can't be written down, I'm confident that we could put our heads together and come up with something that would make becoming a highly productive Wikinewsie faster and more accessible to more Wikieditors and newcomers to Project Wiki. We could figure out how to put words to at least some of what you say I'm missing about all this.
Ah yes. I remember clicking through six and seven and ten pages on Wikipedia looking for the rule I needed, not finding it, and giving up. That's why I always supported keeping the whole MOS on one page. Easier to find things.
The upshot of that paragraph is that I came to Wikinews already knowing a lot about Project Wiki. By being experienced at Wikipedia, no one had to explain to me what the edit button was or how Wikimarkup worked. I either already knew or knew where to look up a lot of where the rubber meets the road and therefore wasn't going to get frustrated by it and quit. I already knew some of the etiqutte—example: it's polite to check the archive to see if a proposal has been made before, so I did. If I'm supposedly missing a huge amount of the point of this place, then it's likely that most newcomers would as well, and that could be one reason why this place has so many fewer people than it needs. It would be worth investing in some infrastructure or maybe even some changes (I am not referring to the original proposal of this thread).
We could start with what it is that you think this thread indicates that I am missing. Darkfrog24 (talk) 02:04, 18 February 2017 (UTC)
Pardon my bluntness, but that's bullshit. I already explained a great deal here (losing an entire day of review to it), and you've acted as if most of it had never been written, and then you suggest maybe I should try explaining things to you, and "we" could write documentation. "We" couldn't document it; you don't have any knowledge to contribute to the task; you've been here a short time, during which you've hit a ceiling in learning, evidently having come to the project knowing a lot about Wikipedia and mistaking it for knowing a lot about all wikis. There's a chronic problem on non-Wikipedia-centric sisters that some Wikipedians translate parochial arrogance into a destructive assumption all other wikis should work the way Wikipedia does. If we — veteran Wikinewsies — were willing to shut down the project once and for all, we could spend more time on documentation, disregarding that there'd be no reason to do so with no project left to document; and if we were all possessed of an inexplicable desire to pour time into documenting the corpse of the dead project, we still couldn't because figuring out how to document such things must flow from doing, which we would no longer have to draw on. --Pi zero (talk) 06:42, 18 February 2017 (UTC)