Mark Trapp noted in his comment to Martha here:

Other sites other than Wikipedia/IMDB pass your "availability test" and Wikipedia/IMDB fail the "reliability test" (they can, and most assuredly are, sometimes wrong, just like the domain-specific wikis). So we have no reason—given your argument—to favor them over anything else. Since there is no consensus here over what references people prefer to answer questions, stating those are the only that count is arbitrary. We could just as easily insist that only Memory Alpha or the Tolkien Gateway count. At least with a Google search, someone can find some answer convergence.

I wondered if there would be interest in discussing what specific references we do want to accept for questions on SFF? ETA: I need to clarify that I'm asking this question should General Reference be removed as a closure criteria, as General Reference accepts only the Wikipedia and IMDB as credible sources when deciding whether a question is GR or not. If General Reference gets the boot, do we want to discuss what sources are acceptable, without the constraints of the Wiki and the IMDB, on a post-GR SFF.se site?

I did search meta and didn't find this question, but if it's a duplicate, let me know and I'll delete it.

  • 2
    This question seems contingent upon the assumption that General Reference is a valid VTC reason, unless I misunderstand. However, that seems likely to change.
    – Beofett
    Nov 11, 2012 at 18:39
  • 1
    We already have What are standard internet reference sites for SF? but I'm not sure if you're asking the same question. Is this about the general reference close reason, or about what sites people tend to consider helpful/reliable/…?
    – user56
    Nov 11, 2012 at 19:02
  • Just to clarify: when I said, "Since there is no consensus here over what references people prefer to answer questions, stating those are the only that count is arbitrary.", I meant "count [for the purposes of the GR close reason]".
    – user366
    Nov 11, 2012 at 22:01
  • @Beofett -- Actually, no, I'm hoping that General Reference gets tossed. IME, as it's been applied to me, it's a "I just don't like your question" closure code. I'm broaching the subject of what resources and references users might want to accept on a post-GR SFF.se (I find the Wikipedia/IMDB rule to be restrictive; a published interview with an author is just as tightly sourced as the Wikipedia). Basically, I wondered if we wanted to wipe the slate clean and discuss acceptable resources from a fresh perspective. Hopefully from a post-GR view. Perhaps it is too premature, though. :) Nov 11, 2012 at 22:16
  • @Gilles - I feel it's sometimes good to revive a topic under a new thread, especially if a lot of time has passed. Perhaps a better way to ask it would be Should General Reference be discontinued, will we need to vet resources at all, or would doing so be moot without GR? Nov 11, 2012 at 22:21
  • @MarkTrapp -- Yes, that's how I read that part of your quote. I agree with you. :) Nov 11, 2012 at 22:22
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    @Slytherincess - absent G.R., "acceptable" resources is literally "ANYTHING/EVERYTHING" at the same time as "NOTHING". Meaning, you can't close the question or answer because of specific resource, BUT you can, as usual, downvote for any goddamn reason you want. Nov 11, 2012 at 23:06
  • @Slytherincess Oh okay, cool: just wanted to make sure I didn't inadvertently open a can of worms due to poor phrasing. :P
    – user366
    Nov 11, 2012 at 23:14
  • possible duplicate of What sites should be considered general references?
    – NominSim
    Nov 12, 2012 at 1:05
  • 2
    You lost me somewhere: if we get rid of General Reference, then what sense is there in defining what is or is not General Reference? Isn't that kinda like debating how to punish someone who commits suicide?
    – Martha
    Nov 12, 2012 at 16:37
  • Yeah, sorry it took so long, but I have asked the mods to close or delete this question, whatever the most appropriate protocol is. I was confused over the General Reference stuff when I asked my question, so sorry about that! :) Nov 22, 2012 at 2:48

3 Answers 3

  • If you mean "which references are acceptable to be references in an answer", the answer is "eye of the beerholder".

    We can give some general FYIs (e.g. Wikias are frequently unreliable), BUT, ultimately, it's what every questioner and up/down voter feels THEY PERSONALLY accept. No universal rule.

    We can not really realistically impose any universal standard.

    • However, your own practice of annotating your own questions as to what YOU as a questioner consider valid sources is perfectly legitimate.

    • My own personal preference is the material sourced from either the main works being discussed, other related works from the same author, the out-of-fiction statements by the author (notes/interviews/memoirs), or those by a person who's officially authorized by the author to speak on the behalf of canonicity (e.g. Leland Chee for Star Wars).

      This may or may not be extended to author's estate, by your personal preference.

  • If you mean for General Reference VTC, been discussed before: Wikipedia and IMDB.

    Is Wikia.com general reference?

    ... and that's even assuming we keep G.R. in the first place:

    Should we burninate General Reference?

  • ... "beerholder"?
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Nov 12, 2017 at 19:44

I agree with DVK's position somewhat: we get into unmaintainable territory if we start enforcing a standard set of sources for answers. Every work has its own definition of "canon", if there is even a consensus (for example, some consider Star Trek: The Animated Series canon, others don't).

And what do we do if an answer is provided that doesn't cite the hypothetical list of acceptable sources? Do we go the route of Skeptics and put the onus on moderators to delete them? Less drastically, we can't force people to not upvote those answers or downvote them, either.

So like DVK, I agree that "what counts" is dependent on the evaluator: if you don't think an answer based on Wikia is useful, vote it down. If you're asking a question and you receive two answers—one from a source you trust and another you don't—accept the former. If you're up for it, maybe even dispute the claim based on the Wikia source and ask for better citations.

But I diverge from DVK in that questions do not have the right to restrict acceptable sources as sort of a backdoor way to this, where if an answer doesn't use the source the question states as valid, it's technically "not an answer" and should be deleted.

The main project here is to be a useful internet resource: questions answered here will potentially help anyone in the future who happens to be searching for information about the same problem. If I search for "Why did X do Y?" and find a question here with answers, the expectation is that that Q&A pairing is our definitive answer to that query.

But let's take the situation where it's okay to restrict a question to a set of sources. You have two situations:

  1. The list of acceptable sources for the topic is universally agreed-upon, making the restriction unnecessary.
  2. The list of acceptable sources for the topic is not universally agreed-upon, and the Q&A pair is not definitive.

In the latter situation, if I'm searching for information about the problem, and I don't agree with the question asker's set of acceptable sources, I'm in a real bind: the answers don't help me, and if I ask a new question, it's likely to get closed as an exact duplicate of the first one.

Ah, one might say a new question asking the exact same thing but with a different set of acceptable sources is not an exact duplicate! But that's neither sustainable nor in the spirit of the closure:

  • Is having a dozen different questions asking exactly the same thing really acceptable? Five? Where do we draw the line? What happens if that line is less than the number of combinations of acceptable sources, and the extant questions don't help me?
  • If I'm not a discerning reader, don't have a favorite set of acceptable sources, and search for an answer, what do I do when there's a number of questions asking the same thing with different answers? How do I compare them?

Instead, questions should ask about a topic or a problem and that's it. Like above, if you think the answer's sources are acceptable, upvote it or accept it. If you don't, downvote it and optionally explain why the answer's sources are lacking.

This way, what's acceptable is organically decided by the community (through votes) and the asker (through the acceptance check mark), but we still allow for a comprehensive Q&A pair should future visitors not agree with either.


As Mark says, different people have different thresholds of acceptance when it comes to other than very specific sources. I'll use myself as an example.

The FYI I put at the end of my posts is I'm looking for a canon-based answer (the Harry Potter novels, the three supplemental books, interviews with J.K. Rowling, and/or Pottermore. I do not prefer an answer from the HP Wikia or the Wikipedia.

So, obviously, I would like to see the following as acceptable references on SFF:

  • Canon - the actual source material, whether that be books, a movie, or a TV show.
  • Material that supplements the original canon material. In the case of Harry Potter, again using my own fandom as an example, that would mean Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Quidditch Through the Ages, and The Tales of Beedle the Bard.
  • Author interviews that can be sourced in text.
  • Author's website, such as Pottermore.
  • Podcasts with author interviews, ideally with a written transcript to link to.
  • Select websites: The Leaky Cauldron; Harry Potter Lexicon; Mugglenet

Not that the above websites would be completely infallible, but I am not a fan of the Wikias, the Wikipedia, or amateurish websites such as omgnargles.com or whatever. I'm on the fence about Quora.

  • You should drop the last bullet point. Any information on TLC/HPL that is NOT sourced directly from JKR is just as liable to be wrong as on any random blog. And any information there that IS sourced from JKR is 100% covered by your preceding bullet points. Nov 11, 2012 at 18:45
  • ... at which point, your entire answer can be deleted and replaced with "information directly sourced by the author of the works, their estate or anyone else the author/estate authorized to speak on behalf of the Universe (such as Leland Chee for Lucas)" Nov 11, 2012 at 18:46
  • I get what you're saying. In the case of J.K. Rowling, there are a very few interviews whose podcasts and transcripts are available only at a certain website. They are well sourced, though. That is why I thought of that particular source. :) Nov 11, 2012 at 22:29

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