It's fairly clear that Wikipedia is considered general reference (for both SciFi.SE and many other sites).

Is wikia.com network considered general reference as well? For example for Harry Potter questions, http://harrypotter.wikia.com

  • Good question, I think I may have asked about this elsewhere, if I dig it up I'll post a link. Nov 25, 2011 at 22:06
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    By our current policy, no. Here's the prior debate on the general issue.
    – user56
    Nov 25, 2011 at 22:51
  • @Gilles Shouldn't that be an answer, instead of a comment?
    – user1027
    Nov 26, 2011 at 0:50
  • @Keen As I understand it, DVK disagrees with the current policy, and would like to change it. An answer here should be an argument for or against the proposed change. I didn't close this question as duplicate because I think sufficient time has elapsed that we may want to reevaluate the policy (which could end up in our affirming it).
    – user56
    Nov 26, 2011 at 1:02
  • @Gilles - I'm on the fence. I can buy into arguments both pro and contra as presented on the link you provided and the question linked from that. I have a significantly harsher attitude as far as Stack Overflow however, for a variety of reasons. Nov 26, 2011 at 1:41

1 Answer 1


There are several elements in what makes a source a general reference:

  • The source should be well-known and easily found. If the answer is on some obscure corner of the Internet, well, that describes most questions. Part of the aim of Stack Exchange is to make all questions googlable.
  • The source should have some element of authority and reliability.
  • The source should be durable. There should be reasonable confidence that the information will be there in a few years' time.

Wikipedia is a general reference in part because just about everyone has heard of it, it's usually of reasonable quality, and information rarely disappears from it. It is natural, when you want to know something, to look it up on Wikipedia, like you might look it up in a paper encyclopedia. Hence, there is no point in duplicating information that is easily found there.

Wikia, as an institution, does not meet these criteria. The wikis in there vary enormously in terms of quality, reliability and comprehensiveness. Sometimes wikis come and go (for example, there have been communities that left Wikia because they disagreed with policy changes, leaving behind content that was decent but is no longer being maintained and is slowly rotting away). Wikia, in itself, is not a general reference site.

Specific wikis on Wikia sometimes have the necessary reliability to be a general reference site. But can you make a comprehensive list? Can most people browsing the web? No. And that content may not be very durable (see above). So individual Wikia sites cannot be considered general references either.

An added factor that distinguishes Wikipedia from Wikia and other fan sites is that Wikipedia has a policy of forbidding in-universe writing. Many fan sites provide an in-universe perspective that is not comprehensible to readers who are not familiar with the material already.

For added reading, I refer your to Robert Cartaino's answer in an earlier, broader discussion on this topic.

I am strongly opposed to broadening the definition of the general reference close reason to cover sources that are not general references.

On a related note, Google should not be used as a measure to determine whether a question is a legitimate Stack Exchange question. “General reference” does not take Google into account (or at least it should not, by its definition, even if it's sometimes abused). General reference means “look it up in a dictionary / in an encyclopedia / in the manual”. It does not mean “google it”.

  • I think Google is meant as a rule of thumb as oppposed to a hard rule. In a majority of cases, something that IS a general reference will be caught by Google. I think your arguments against Wikia as a general reference are pretty convincing so I'll make this as an accepted answer. +1 for excellent write-up. Nov 26, 2011 at 1:45
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    I would also add that Wikia is not somewhere that people necessarily know exists, especially those that have questions basic enough to be answered there directly. I really only found it looking for sources more concrete than my memory for answers I've posted here, and I think that people asking questions here might not know the particular phrases to search for that might lead them there.
    – Kevin
    Nov 26, 2011 at 5:20
  • +1 for the link to Robert's answer. The way to figure out if it's general reference is to follow the flowchart in blog.stackoverflow.com/2011/02/are-some-questions-too-simple. Sometimes content on wikia might get you to the "close as general reference" action, sometime it might not. It's not what site it is on, it's what the content is like, and whether it can be easily found, and whether it it interesting.
    – Tony Meyer
    Dec 8, 2011 at 6:38

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