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Wikipedia has a very precise policy on tone:

Impartial tone

Wikipedia describes disputes. Wikipedia does not engage in disputes. A neutral characterization of disputes requires presenting viewpoints with a consistently impartial tone; otherwise articles end up as partisan commentaries even while presenting all relevant points of view. Even where a topic is presented in terms of facts rather than opinions, inappropriate tone can be introduced through the way in which facts are selected, presented, or organized. Neutral articles are written with a tone that provides an unbiased, accurate, and proportionate representation of all positions included in the article.
The tone of Wikipedia articles should be impartial, neither endorsing nor rejecting a particular point of view. Try not to quote directly from participants engaged in a heated dispute; instead, summarize and present the arguments in an impartial tone.

Should Skeptics adopt the same policy in answers but especially in questions?


Related question: What is the Skeptics' standard with regard to bias and neutrality?

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    I'm trying to understand where the line would be drawn. When I say "[This photo] doesn't ring true to me"(skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/6498/…), am I being biased, or merely scoping the claim? – Oddthinking Oct 14 '11 at 10:04
  • I think it should be avoided where not substantiated. "This photo looks fake to me because..." is OK, but if the OP has no reason beside bias then "I don't know whether this photo is real" is the correct tone. In other words -- questions should try hard not to bias the answers/the tone of discussion. – Sklivvz Oct 14 '11 at 12:29
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    @Oddthinking E.g. This has a nice, neutral tone. The OP could have just as easily said "I think the method is pseudoscientific mumbo-jumbo", and it would have made the question so much worse. – Sklivvz Oct 14 '11 at 12:31
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First, I think it is worth pointing out, we already take action on a number of related issues.


Now, imagine a hypothetical bias-ometer, that rates a completely neutral and impartial text as 0 and a completely biased text as 10. I think we should expect questions and answers to be rated 3 or less. I don't think we can expect people to ask questions completely neutrally, but even moderate bias should be acted upon.

If the question makes implied assumptions that wouldn't be accepted by one side of the debate, it should be edited.

My justification for this position includes:

  • Strong bias in the question may discourage unbiased answers, risking us not getting to the truth.

  • Strong bias in the answer (unsupported by evidence - obviously, you are allowed to take a position in the answer. That's the point!) may make it less convincing to both people who are mistaken about an issue and people who are sitting on the fence.

  • In many cases, it is an initial opinion on a claim that makes people post it up in the first place. (If you heard a claim and believed it to be true, why would you be motivated to post it here?) Trying to make people hide their disbelief seems a bit artificial.

  • If there is one area we need to improve, it is the number of question per day. There may be a trade-off between quality and volume, and I think the quality has vastly improved since, say, April. I don't want to go backwards. However, imposing stricter and stricter rules on the question-askers is likely to scare off new users. I think a modicum of tolerance towards low levels of bias is in our interest in helping new users to feel welcome.

I note that a lot of the incidental humour on this site is in the form of bias against unskeptical believers. We may need to acknowledge that the neutral position is a little humourless.

  • I agree with everything except that "the number of questions per day" should be relevant here (or that we should compromise quality for quantity -- ultimately it's counterproductive). – Sklivvz Oct 16 '11 at 15:03
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    I know this is old, but I'd like to suggest this, and I think you did as well: If a new user posts a question, be very understanding. This site has stricter and different mechanisms even to someone like me who had previous experience on other SE sites. So don't down-vote right away, give the new user some time and some guidance to improve his question and if nothing happens in a reasonable amount of time (larger than experienced users), then close it/down-vote as you see fit. – Alenanno Jan 30 '12 at 18:29
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I'd say it is much more important in questions than answers if only because answers, by their nature, need to come to a conclusion to be any good. But even if answers are advocating a point of view, there should still be rules about how they draw their conclusion. There is a line between a reasonable argument and a partizan attack.

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