How to/Talk

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I see absolutely nothing wrong with having practical advice and even, in some contexts and presented the right way, moral exhortation on Wikipedia. Knowledge, which encyclopedias catalog, includes not just declarative knowledge (knowledge "that") but also procedural knowledge (knowledge "how"). Sometimes it can be of great interest to try to codify procedural knowledge in declarative (or imperative) sentences.

The big question is how to formulate such how-tos. (We need a how-to for how-tos.) In keeping with Wikipedia's general interest in being unbiased, we want advice of a sort that is often given by experts, or in guide books. Where different experts would give different advice, the differences should be noted.


This is great! :-) My only nitpick is that personal opinion is actually to be avoided in Wikipedia how-tos; i.e., we would like even how-tos to be written from the neutral point of view.


The point is that it is sometimes not practical or even possible for some how-tos to be neutral, and even when it is, sometimes the personal opinion is just as valuable information as the neutral information. For example, Poker/Equipment expresses the opinion that high-quality cards and chips are worth the price but that "poker tables" generally aren't. That's useful information to someone learning to play poker, so I wouldn't want it excluded. It should be mentioned in the text above, though, that such opinion should be attributed if it is potentially controversial (if even with a wimpy attribution such as "many believe..." or "this author believes..."). --LDC


I agree entirely that what you call "personal opinion"--if it is expert or (where experts per se don't exist) well-justified opinion--is sometimes just as valuable as neutral information. Please note that extremely opinionated stuff can be presented from the neutral point of view.

I would be curious to learn why how-tos sometimes cannot be neutral. There is more than one way to skin a cat, eh? Wouldn't the neutral point of view have us report on all of them? (First, get a cat; firmly grab it by its neck...) --LMS


Question: what about if somebody starts posting howto guides for really nasty illegal stuff? "tax evasion for beginners"? "Ecstasy production in your own backyard"? "photographic techniques for kiddie porn?" I think it's appropriate to have traditional encyclopedia articles on tax evasion, ecstasy, and kiddie porn, but (hypothetically) having howto guides for such topics poses additional moral questions and ones that might better be dealt with by other projects IMHO.


Yeh, I posted a similar question at Wikipedia Cookbook/Talk. The answer was honest, if not especially reassuring. :-) --KQ