Rules to consider/Do not include primary sources debate

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Counter-argument: Wikipedia is a repository of all general knowledge, and primary sources certainly fall within that mission. However, the current Wikipedia code needs some way to automatically distinguish between entries and primary sources, or a way to automatically work with Project Gutenberg.

I adamantly oppose the idea of excluding primary sources. I know that Wikipedia is an encyclopedia and that traditionally encyclopedias don't include primary sources but why? I say it was because of the constraints inherent with paper, and remember Wiki is not paper! There is no limit to how big or complete Wiki can be, we don't have to squeeze the sum of human knowledge into 20 expensive bound volumes and excluding primary sources is applying paper era thinking to computer age technology. Its obvious we need some way to lock pages so they cannot be edited anymore(except by Adminstrators) otherwise we would have tricksters going into the Wikified complete King James Bible and changing the Ten Commandments(from 'Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery' to 'Thou shalt get thy freak on.' for example). I think the Administrators already have this ability, all we need to do is have a way for them to know which pages need to be locked or unlocked. Setting up something like Larry Sanger/Please lock these pages and Larry Sanger/Please unlock these pages should do the trick. --

I'm opposed to the willy-nilly inclusion of primary sources into Wikipedia, because I think it could potentially place a *very* heavy load on the server (we could end up with terabytes of primary source material, particularly if we start getting images, sound and video), making it considerably more difficult to mirror, and so on. A parallel project for a "primary source repository" would be cool, though, but I doubt any server on earth could afford to keep it running (is a RedHat CD ISO a "primary source"? Probably. Can Bomis afford to mirror it? Probably not) --Robert Merkel

Some (a little) primary source material is indispensable. But Wikipedia is not the place for swathes of it. When I look in an encyclopaedia for a reference to William Shakespeare, my expectations of an encyclopaedia is that there will be a biographical outline, his historical context, a list of references, some criticism, and perhaps a few examples of his work and a couple of salient plot synopses. I would be somewhat amazed to find not only all of the foregoing but the complete works not only of WS, but also Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson, John Ford, The Battle of Maldon, Beowulf, the Bible, etc, etc, etc. It would be a very large collection of tomes liable to collapse under the weight of their own critical mass, an almost Borgesian proposition to even contemplate... sjc

My opinion is that Wikipedia can and should include primary sources, but we shouldn't do it indiscriminately. Wikipedia is an ideal tool to facilitate convenient publication of primary sources together with textual analisys and even perhaps scholarly apparatus.

Consider the text of a few Shakespeare dramas that we currently have. They are just Gutenberg copies (or other copies available freely on the web), with some nicer formatting. What's the use of keeping them on Wikipedia if they're available in hundreds of other places?

But if we were to publish in Wikipedia an authoritative, scholarly edition of a Shakespeare play, together with textual apparatus, notes on which readings are preferred for which reasons, etc. etc. - that would, in my opinion, be valuable, and serve well the Wikipedia ideal of moving in deeper and broader than a traditional encyclopaedia. Or, alternatively, the text of the plays precisely as in the Folio edition, or the Quarto edition, could be published, and that would be very valuable for everyone who wanted to see Shakespeare's text as it first appeared - something not so easily and not so widely available on the web precisely because it's a scholarly resource, not a general-purpose resource - but one of Wikipedia's purposes may be to provide such scholarly resources.

It's the same with other primary sources. Don't just take a KJV Bible off the web - take it, and proofread it, and make a web of topics around it discussing its history, its translation principles, etc. etc.

Finally, the software should be accomodated to allow for easier work with primary sources, as well. Those who actually imported Shakespeare etc. into Wikipedia will probably know better than I what to suggest in this regard.


Darn right (I imported and formated Macbeth. Ouch.). I completely agree with Anatoly. Primary sources can be of great use in Wikipedia, but only if we're going to be dedicated about editing scholarly resources, and only if the software is improved to handle such large texts. Until then, I'm going to stay away from importing more large sources. --STG