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I review a lot of suggested edits, some of which are attempts to provide wikis and wiki excerpts for tags that don't have them. I tend to think it is very important to have at least a wiki excerpt for each tag to guide people in its use. For this reason, I lean towards approving such a suggested edit, especially when there had been nothing beforehand. However, I sometimes see a suggested edit (mostly for wikis, but occasionally even for excerpts) that are nothing but information that has been copied and pasted from Wikipedia or similar sources (always with quotation marks and proper attribution, of course).

What do we, as a community, think about this? Are quotes from Wikipedia, Wolfram Math World, etc., adequate for tag wikis excerpts? Or for full wikis? Does it make a difference if there was nothing beforehand?

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    $\begingroup$ I have no objection to any particular source being used so long as the definition itself appears clear, correct and suitable for our purposes. I find Wikipedia to be uneven in style and accuracy, but I doubt I am alone in that, yet it's not an objection in principle. $\endgroup$ – Nick Cox Aug 20 '13 at 17:16
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    $\begingroup$ I have accepted edits like this before but I'll admit I've never thought about this issue before. Now that I do, I understand the practical benefit of accepting these kinds of edits, but prefer to think that the tag wiki writers are experts in the subject - not in searching wikipedia. If you know what you're talking about, it doesn't take much time to write a decent tag wiki excerpt. If one can't be bothered to take that amount of time, I guess I'd ask why they're editing tag wikis at all. Overall, this behavior seems to be more about gaming the edit badges than anything, so I'd discourage it. $\endgroup$ – Macro Aug 20 '13 at 18:43
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    $\begingroup$ I brought this up in chat awhile ago, see chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/message/10445808#10445808, in which whuber has an applicable response (to this question). $\endgroup$ – Andy W Aug 20 '13 at 19:04
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    $\begingroup$ +1 to @Macro. I like the principle that you shouldn't be writing tag wikis if you couldn't do a good job yourself. But best to reject a poor definition rather than imply that someone is not quite competent enough. An extra detail is that Wikipedia or any other external source can change. $\endgroup$ – Nick Cox Aug 20 '13 at 19:16
  • $\begingroup$ +1 to @AndyW; the comments there get at one of my concerns w/ this issue. Namely, it seems to me that the info (especially for the excerpts) should be more specific to CV. Perhaps whuber will contribute his thoughts on the topic as an answer here as well. $\endgroup$ – gung - Reinstate Monica Aug 20 '13 at 19:24
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    $\begingroup$ My own feeling is that where possible we should write the best wiki and excerpt we can. I don't mind a certain amount of wikipedia, but whenever possible prefer to use several sources or write one from scratch (we're supposed to know what we're talking about!). I have some some wikipedia extracts pop up that were either not especially relevant or even bordering on wrong. I tend to let them through if there's no good reason to knock them back, even if I don't especially like the explanation (though I sometimes go back and edit). For excerpts I think they should almost always be custom-made. $\endgroup$ – Glen_b -Reinstate Monica Aug 23 '13 at 3:25
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    $\begingroup$ Has this Wikipedia issue led to a stricter reviewing process of tag wiki edits? I got most of them accepted so far but it seems that the entry for the geo-information system (gis) tag has gone missing. As concerns the topic: I started editing such tags recently because before I wasn't aware of this feature. I admit, I'm not an expert on all topics but I spend a good amount of time to read up on them and to write decent wikis and excerpts. Therefore I'm somewhat negative towards wikis that were just copy/pasted because it's just effortless. $\endgroup$ – Andy Sep 3 '13 at 21:14
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I for one think something (accurate) is better than nothing, so it should make a difference whether something's there yet. However, a counterargument: people might feel less welcome to change something short that's already there, even if it's incomplete.

The accuracy of the information should matter more than the source (all quotation and attribution being proper and equal, that is). I think I understand the desire to avoid copying existing info without improving it, but improvement isn't always possible, and degradation shouldn't be preferable to copying in such cases.

What to include seems to me like the broader, more important question; if Wikipedia or Wolfram or 4chan can provide all the desired information in a succinct, thorough, accurate manner, why should anyone care where the info came from (so long as it's cited properly)? Conversely, where the info came from should not affect how the edit's quality is judged when it's lacking either. As others have implied, Wikipedia is only as reliable as us Wikipedians, and our reliability varies quite widely.

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    $\begingroup$ One thing to note is that the tag wiki excerpt is intended to help guide individuals when to use a particular tag on this site. The intro. Wikipedia statements on more advanced topics are rarely up to this task IMO. $\endgroup$ – Andy W Jan 6 '14 at 13:01
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    $\begingroup$ Agreed, but I still don't think the source is as relevant as other characteristics by which one should judge excerpt content. Sometimes (if rarely) Wikipedia gives quite succinct and clear introductions; suiting to this site's purposes certainly necessitates some additional thought and writing/editing, but that would be true of any source other than the writer/editor him/herself. Maybe the parts that need to be original writing could be more clearly demarcated? $\endgroup$ – Nick Stauner Jan 6 '14 at 13:08
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Q&A sites like Cross-Validated are not aggregators of information available over the web. They exist because general sources like Wikipedia do not suffice, and they are supposed to offer expertise focused on their field. Obviously what we write in this forum is not parthenogenesis, but neither is just aggregation : it is a purposeful synthesis of sources (our own brains included), guided by the question at hand. In this case the "question" is the name of the tag, and we should approach the content of the tag wikis and excerpts in the same spirit as when answering a question -and even more so, since tag content requires an even more distilled and concrete knowledge of the subject. In the answers we do mention and point to external references - but how often do we copy/paste passages from them?

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