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I brought this up briefly in the Hub of Reason but I don't really know how that works so I'll just ask here. I see plenty of good threads closed or at least challenged because they don't provide a link to refute.

But why does one like this need a link? It's not making a complicated claim. Why does it matter if it's on some random site, or the person asking it just heard it from a friend? Would it fix the problem of not having a link if the person just made an otherwise blank HTML file that just had their question in claim form? (I know that's just being annoying, but it proves my point: why does it need to be in website form?)

Also, sometimes there are things that I might called "implicitly claimed" -- for example, in this question I asked (note: I was not asking if vegetables are good, which was the reason someone voted it closed), I wasn't really able to find any direct claim of anyone online saying that vegetables are better than a daily comprehensive vitamin -- but people must implicitly believe that, because if vitamins were as healthy, many people would probably forgo vegetables a lot of the time (vitamins are cheaper, easier, etc).

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Firstly, let me briefly reject your premise, before accepting it and getting to the actual answer.

The notability reference does not have to be a website. It could be to a book, a flyer, a billboard, maybe even a prominent piece of graffiti. Web-sites are just, by far, the most common.

Nor does there have to be a notability reference. We sometimes accept questions because they are broadly repeated and everyone knows it, e.g. Does an "apple a day keep the doctor away"?. Sometimes, they aren't that wide-spread - someone challenges it and there are a few comments from other users along the lines of "Yes, my mother told me that when I was young too" and that's considered sufficient.

Our general recommendation is that if there is no notability reference in a question, and you are unsure that the claim is notable, that you do some basic searching before complaining, and if you find some notable examples, edit them in to help the next reader.


There are several reasons for asking for a notability reference:

  • People who are willing to do the research to definitively answer questions are our most precious resource. To preserve that, we want to give them questions that are important - that, when answered, will help many people who could be searching for an answer. We want "notable" claims that are believed by many people. That's hard to prove, so we accept, as a proxy, claims that are widely heard. A notability reference is the quickest way to demonstrate a claim is notable. Your proposed link to an otherwise blank HTML page fails that purpose.

  • Many skeptics have as a valiant goal/vain desire to reduce the amount of wild, unsubstantiated, speculation that people share, and instead promote people giving careful thought and referenced evidence to their claims. If the site turns into a place where people can go to a bar, come up with wild speculations about the world, and then simply post them here to have them properly researched, we will actually be promoting the opposite result. We don't want to offer that service.

  • Often the original claim is perfectly reasonable, as long as you understand the full context of the claim, rather than a quote-mined version, with the original definitions used, or with the exact original wording rather than a confused paraphrase by someone who didn't fully understand the concept. By providing a link to the source of the claim, we can answer those questions and clear up the misunderstanding. Without the original context, we are left addressing a "strawman" [Some people have objected that my use of that term isn't strictly inaccurate here, but I haven't found a better one.] where we prove that the poster's version of the claim (the only version we can see) is incorrect, but we totally fail to address the original claim, which is a disservice to everyone involved.

  • It also shows that the hurdle of a very minimal amount of research has been done. I find it frustrating when I do a search to find a notable reference, and find the first five hits in Google are to sites refuting the claim with empirical evidence. In such cases, we aren't really improving the Internet by answering the question. Anyone who searches will already get the answer, and the OP has demonstrated that they don't do that. I feel like I am dishonestly cherry-picking, when I have to carefully hunt for a site that DOESN'T clearly refute the claim, just to provide notability.

For all these reasons, asking for a notable claim improves the quality of this site.

  • Alright, thank you for the response. I do see a value in asking for a notable claim. But it seems like it may end up excluding decent questions. As a concrete example, is there any way I could have asked my vegetable/vitamin question and not have it closed? It was actually closed as being a duplicate, which it was not, but I had trouble finding sources for it: Tons of sources say that vitamins are good, but I couldn't find many sources making the very specific claim of why they can or can't completely replace veggies. – YungHummmma Jun 5 '14 at 14:48
  • Here is a source: mylifestages.org/asktheexpert/… but I preemptively addressed that in my question, so my question still went unanswered. – YungHummmma Jun 5 '14 at 14:48
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    Why your question was closed, and whether it was on-topic are separate issues to notability. Just because a question is an interesting one, doesn't make it on-topic here. If no-one is saying veggies are better than multivitamins, or vice-versa, we don't have a controversy to clear up. That said, there are no shortage of people recommending not to take multivitamins, so you can probably ask a question about that claim. – Oddthinking Jun 5 '14 at 15:24

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