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master steward
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I usually delete any post that contains this phrase. 

On another forum, I saw somebody reply to "citation needed" with "I'm not your fucking google mommy!"  I thought that was an awesome response - although (of course) not a fit for these forums. 

I think it is fair for somebody to say "Interesting perspective - any web pages that you really like on that topic?"

I think "citation needed" smells a lot like "you're a damn liar and the reason you don't provide a citation is because there isn't one.  Go ahead and try to prove me wrong."

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paul wheaton wrote:
I usually delete any post that contains this phrase. 

On another forum, I saw somebody reply to "citation needed" with "I'm not your fucking google mommy!"  I thought that was an awesome response - although (of course) not a fit for these forums. 

I think it is fair for somebody to say "Interesting perspective - any web pages that you really like on that topic?"

I think "citation needed" smells a lot like "you're a damn liar and the reason you don't provide a citation is because there isn't one.  Go ahead and try to prove me wrong."




Yeah, someone pulled that on me here recently.  Funny thing is that I based my post on 40 years of personal experience, not something I read.
 
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Sorry for being snarky. Sometimes I get frustrated.


I appreciate the tone you're trying to set here, but it seems to me that potentially it's a haven for people that make shit up and post it like gospel, and anyone who disagrees has their hands tied.


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paul wheaton
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I think if a person wants to see a lot of foolishness, that's what they will see. 

A person could respond "that's just stupid - the odds of getting sick are huge" or, an alternative might be "If I did something like that, I would worry about getting sick."

The first suggests that the OP is stupid.  The second expresses concern without suggesting the OP is stupid. 

I think this is an important difference. 

You are correct that there is the potential for people make stuff up and say it is the gospel.  And I think that is another problem I've been rooting out:  people need to state their position on stuff while leaving room for others to have another position. 



 
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My apologies, that was me. And indeed, reading it again, my request for a link to "peer reviewed studies" could/would be interpreted that way. Hopefully my re-wording is better even if it's not what I meant.

In truth, it was just that: a request for further information of a scientific nature. I wanted to understand the science, and whether you agree or not peer review is a great way to make sure you are reading things that have been vetted.

So how does one ask for such things in this forum? I would love to assume it's not a blanket ban on evidence-based discussion.
 
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It is what it is but I never got this rule.

While I agree it can be said in a more polite way I think it is very important to be able to ask for evidence (coming from a science background). One of the only weaknesses of permaculture is that there is so much made up crap diluting the stuff that actually works. When ideas are beyond questioning for fear of hurting somebodies fragile feelings then it is hard to make progress or be taken seriously. Anecdotes are anecdotes and it's fine if that's all they are, maybe it is something worth further investigation and the poster could be the person that does that. I thought your request was warranted Eric..
 
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... I never got this rule. 



Check out this thread which gives a general idea of what we are aiming for at permies.

Personally, I feel it's great to read accademic studies on things.  I love geeking out over such details.  However, much of what the people are doing here is beyond what science has investigated.  It's cutting edge stuff.  We are still at the anidotal evidence stage of things. 

I see this place as somewhere we can say "I heard this thing that this guy did and it was interesting."  Then the next person takes that idea and expands on it.  A bit like a thought experiment, only many of the readers go out and try this thing or that thing and report back on how it went.

If someone comes back with 'citation needed', then the next person who had an idea would feel less safe to share their idea. 


For example, someone said somewhere on permies that some squash are frost tollerant early in life.  Now I live somewhere where squash transplants are put out in early June.  But because I read this scentence about squash plants being able to withstand a frost, I direct sewed my winter squash plants two months before our last frost date: early march.  They grew, many withstood frost, and I had my first harvest before the others had put their squash in the ground.  I'm keeping the seeds from the squash that survived the frost and hope to continue testing them against frost in years to come. 

I've found no science to back up my squash expierence.  Possibly because it is whole hearditly believed that squash cannot survive frost, therefore why research it?  But now we have anidotal evidece because someone felt free enough to mention it.  If they didn't feel safe to mention such an apparently crazy idea of planting squash in March, then I would never have tried it.



Even when said in a polite way, asking for sources can still be hurtful.  It comes across as 'I don't believe you', even if that wasn't the intention. 

Often what we mean when we ask for citation is "hey, that's interesting.  I want to learn more about that."  In which case, maybe asking specific questions might be helpful. 
 
Eric Bee
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^^ Exactly right, or so I understand it.

My first reaction was... WTF? And then I realized that since my goal was only to learn more and not to attack the idea, and certainly not to attack the person, why not just ask it that way? Why not just say "do you have additional information?"

And then I thought: Why do I even need to ask? I googled and found several good articles right away. Which of course made me think... maybe I was asking because I was thinking... "pshaaw, that's bunk" even if I truly was curious and had an open mind about it.

Too often the "citation needed" line comes out as a way to shut down conversation and as a way to discredit someone's ideas -- because you can always debate sources until your blue in the face -- they are open to interpretation even when the conclusions seem clear. I know that sounds odd, but that's kind of the way things go online. "This study says X"... "well it's wrong because it's only one study and...."

I've lurked here for years but only just started posting. I thought this was quite a useful lesson. At first it seemed nit-picky and overly sensitive but if you've ever managed online communities you know that you have to be proactive in keeping interactions and culture in line with the spirit of the community as new people come in. 

I love the squash example and I'm going to try that next spring.

 
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Eric Bee wrote:Too often the "citation needed" line comes out as a way to shut down conversation and as a way to discredit someone's ideas --



From years of watching what goes on here, including 'behind the scenes', it's very obvious to me that even when it isn't the intention to shut down conversation, it often has that effect.  People with a science background might take it in their stride, but someone who has spent a lifetime on the land quietly testing things in their own sweet way and with a ton of stuff to share, is very likely to stop posting at the first hint of 'prove it'. 

We welcome 'evidence based' discussion here, but we also welcome input from those who've never even heard of the phrase - the aim is productive discussion of pretty well anything that can make the the world a better place through permaculture, tapping in to as wide a knowledge and experience base as possible.  It's a tough aim, and every time a discussion gets closed down by a 'citation needed' we're one step further away from it.  Of course, we do get some ridiculous stuff posted, but if I'd removed all discussion of things that sounded crazy to me, we'd have missed out on some great discussion and great ideas, so I almost always stand back and let the discussion unfold.  Sometimes they really are crazy, sometimes there's stuff that's very beneficial to discuss.  But we won't know unless that discussion is allowed to take place.
 
Eric Bee
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On that note, even though I'm someone who ultimately wants evidence and reproducible results before I really believe something, requiring proof of a hypothesis is not how the scientific method works. In other words, you can't dismiss an idea for lack of evidence, that makes no sense. It's only because someone had some wacky idea that evidence starts to be gathered. At some point the evidence may be enough to say something is bunk, but more often than not the jury is gonna be deliberating for some time. Science means saying "the evidence supports conclusion x", not "the evidence proves x". It's pretty damned rare to get the latter.

I really like this policy (after digesting it) in part because way too many people make the classic mistake of assuming a single paper or even a dozen is equivalent to proof. That's really no better than the opposite stance.
 
Burra Maluca
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Eric Bee wrote:On that note, even though I'm someone who ultimately wants evidence and reproducible results before I really believe something, requiring proof of a hypothesis is not how the scientific method works. In other words, you can't dismiss an idea for lack of evidence, that makes no sense. 



But that has nothing to do with how this forum works.  On this forum, people can dismiss ideas for whatever reason they choose, and no member can tell them they can't. 

Further, I would suggest that if you want your post taken off probation, then you could try removing the bit you were told to remove rather than experimenting to see what you can get away with changing before we accept it.  I have limited time to donate to your experiments and suggest that you read the links in my signature in your own time rather than attempting to force a re-run.
 
paul wheaton
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Eric Bee wrote:On that note, even though I'm someone who ultimately wants evidence and reproducible results before I really believe something ...



So, you are certain that a human being can never go to mars.  Because it has never been done, complete with evidence and reproducible results. 

Further, in your mind, there can never be any innovation beyond what we have now.   And there is no explanation for the innovation that is part of our history.  "Magic" perhaps?

Eric, it seems that you are beginning to understand the value of why we do things the way we do.  Thanks for taking the time to work it through in a respectful manner. 



So how does one ask for such things in this forum?



Respectfully.  

Use techniques that nurture innovation and sharing rather than making this type of discussion combative. 

"Ooooo, now you have seriously piqued my curiosity!  I wish to take your words and use the two-finger 'expand' function to see volumes of detail.  Please tell me more!"

 
r ranson
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I don't think the challenge here is science and how it works.  Science is a wonderful tool for understanding the world around us.  More importantly, it is one of many wonderful tools for understanding (but not the only one).

Eric, you're absolutely right when you say "too many people make the classic mistake of assuming a single paper or even a dozen is equivalent to proof."  This is something we've seen before.  It leads to conflict (from both sides of the equation) and as volunteer staff here, our goal is to reduce conflict and whenever possible nip it in the bud. 

What we do is look at ways people communication.  Certain phrases and responses have triggered confrontation before.  "citation needed" and it's ilk have triggered it before. 

Like I said before, permaculture is investigating a lot of things that science has shown to be impossible or has simply ignored.  My squash, the ones I planted the seeds of directly in the ground in MARCH!  They withstood frost early in life, an impossible feat.  Even more impossible, they grew with zero irrigation.  Our rain ends usually on the last day of April, and we usually go with zero rain on our farm until the middle of Oct.  Our 'growing' season is dry as dust.  Using a temporary variation on hugelkultur, my squash grew to give me three harvests of winter squash without any irrigation.  Nothing but dew and water captured in the soil during the winter.  I wouldn't have tried this if it wasn't for someone mentioning it here.  This is two impossible things that I was able to do because someone felt safe enough to talk about them on permies.com

The goal here is to create an atmosphere where people feel safe to share their wild and crazy ideas.  This comes down to the way we communicate with others.  Sometimes this means that talk about scientific studies needs to be carefully worded.  Sometimes people fall into old habits (not their fault, they were taught to talk that way in higher education) that fails to leave room for other's ideas.  Sometimes people without the same educational background feel this kind of language is aggressive, which leads to conflict. 


If a post is put on probation, that is usually because the content is good and worth saving, but the wording is the problem.  It was phrased in a way that triggers conflict, makes people feel bad, or doesn't fit with the publication standards of this site. 

Science is all fun and games; however, the staff's role here is to create a kind and gentle atmosphere for people of all walks of life to feel safe to share their ideas.
 
Eric Bee
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Paul,
What I said, or the intention of what I said, is the opposite of how you seem to interpret it. I'm confident we are in complete agreement.

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. The absence of reproducible results merely means a hypothesis hasn't been tested. Having some results merely means there is some evidence but at the end of the day proof is rare in science. I have no reason to ever believe that something cannot be done in the absence of evidence and the point I'm trying to make is that it is unscientific to make such an assertion. Too often those calling for citations forget that.

Innovation only happens when people have "wild" ideas. I find myself asserting quite regularly that that is precisely what science is about.

The hilarious thing here Paul is that your tone is quite similar to the tone that I just got chastised for. Dismissive, presumptuous... and in this case I think erroneous. Sorry, but that is how it comes across to me.
 
r ranson
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Eric Bee wrote:
Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. The absence of reproducible results merely means a hypothesis hasn't been tested. Having some results merely means there is some evidence but at the end of the day proof is rare in science. I have no reason to ever believe that something cannot be done in the absence of evidence and the point I'm trying to make is that it is unscientific to make such an assertion. Too often those calling for citations forget that.

Innovation only happens when people have "wild" ideas. I find myself asserting quite regularly that that is precisely what science is about.



Exactly.  I love this!

Eric Bee wrote:
What I said, or the intention of what I said, is the opposite of how you seem to interpret it. I'm confident we are in complete agreement.



That's hit the nail on the head. 

There are lots of different ways of saying things.  Some ways get the intention across better than others. 

The readership of this site is from all over the world and all walks of life.  More importantly, the readership of this site is huge!  Some threads have 10s or 100s of thousands of viewers.   It's inspiring that so many people come here to learn and share about permaculture.  Something about Paul's moderating style has made this the largest permaculture site in the world.  I don't always understand why Paul does things one way or the other, but his success make me think he's worth listening to.
 
paul wheaton
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Eric Bee wrote:
The hilarious thing here Paul is that your tone is quite similar to the tone that I just got chastised for. Dismissive, presumptuous... and in this case I think erroneous. Sorry, but that is how it comes across to me.



This is good to know. 

It sounds like my forum is not a fit for you. 

I wish you well in the new community you try.

 
Eric Bee
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That could well be Paul.
And as you do like to make clear, you have absolute power to decide that. I have no inclination to question that, tell you how to run your site or even not to conform to the expectations and standards you set. If I wish to participate I follow the rules, no whinging. I've run forums and respect that, right down to your need/desire/right to quell dissent. What I am troubled by is their application and communication, which strikes me as not in keeping with the community spirit you describe. But hey, that's just my interpretation. I like to keep my mind open.

We'll see how it goes.
 
paul wheaton
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What I am troubled by is their application and communication, which strikes me as not in keeping with the community spirit you describe.



I fully expect that 99% of the population will find my stuff to be crazy. 

Fortunately, there are few where my stuff makes perfect sense (read: not crazy).  And this community is for those people.

Of the folks that find my stuff to be crazy, I expect that nearly all of them will move along to some other internet community.  A few have tried to figure out my crazy - most of those few never figure it out and they leave too.  But a few of the few do figure it out and decide to stay.

 
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Where do broad, sweeping generalizations fit in here?  What, if any, is the appropriate way to question, for example, "Most people are totally disgusted by conventional produce"?

It's one thing to make a statement that is at the cutting edge of innovation and thus has yet to be 'properly' studied.  Asking for citation in such a case just doesn't work.  And asking for a citation in a way that comes across as arrogant or that suggests that it's only true if it was studied--not allowing that is understandable.  But making a sweeping generalization that more or less reflects my own opinions or the opinions of others, seems different to me.
 
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Wes Hunter wrote:Where do broad, sweeping generalizations fit in here?  What, if any, is the appropriate way to question, for example, "Most people are totally disgusted by conventional produce"?

It's one thing to make a statement that is at the cutting edge of innovation and thus has yet to be 'properly' studied.  Asking for citation in such a case just doesn't work.  And asking for a citation in a way that comes across as arrogant or that suggests that it's only true if it was studied--not allowing that is understandable.  But making a sweeping generalization that more or less reflects my own opinions or the opinions of others, seems different to me.



I hope I'm understanding your question correctly....
I think the response to '"Most people are totally disgusted by conventional produce" could be "I think only some people are totally disgusted by conventional produce"   or  "I don't think many are totally disgusted by conventional produce." or any variation of those.  Including a qualifier such as "I think" or "in my opinion" can change the response from sounding like 'the truth' or 'an absolute fact' to something that leaves openings for others to say what they think rather than dispute or argue or debate.

I think the initial statement could have been "I think most people are totally disgusted by conventional produce" and would have set a tone more conducive to discussion.

For some reason, I think some think that saying "I think" is weak sounding and I think that has something to do with how hard it is to make a statement that isn't authoritative sounding?

and, "I think" won't get just any statement off the hook of course...
 
paul wheaton
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Wes Hunter wrote:Where do broad, sweeping generalizations fit in here?  What, if any, is the appropriate way to question, for example, "Most people are totally disgusted by conventional produce"?

It's one thing to make a statement that is at the cutting edge of innovation and thus has yet to be 'properly' studied.  Asking for citation in such a case just doesn't work.  And asking for a citation in a way that comes across as arrogant or that suggests that it's only true if it was studied--not allowing that is understandable.  But making a sweeping generalization that more or less reflects my own opinions or the opinions of others, seems different to me.



First, if stuff is presented as "the truth", click on "report to moderator" and we will generally delete it. 

Second, with the sample provided, I would respond with "I wouldn't say 'most' because I would guess that about 90% or more of produce sold is conventional.  People vote with their dollars."  In this manner, I have made it so that there is that person's position, and my position. 

There is no "citation needed."
 
Wes Hunter
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paul wheaton wrote:First, if stuff is presented as "the truth", click on "report to moderator" and we will generally delete it. 

Second, with the sample provided, I would respond with "I wouldn't say 'most' because I would guess that about 90% or more of produce sold is conventional.  People vote with their dollars."  In this manner, I have made it so that there is that person's position, and my position. 

There is no "citation needed."



That's good to know, on the first point.

I just generally dislike when folks arbitrarily assign "information" with no evidence whatsoever; in other words, when it's not a matter of opinion but of just making unfounded claims.  A lot of crap and nonsense gets excused (everywhere, not just on Permies) under the guise of "opinion," when it isn't an opinion at all.  But maybe that's just me.

"All guns should be outlawed."  That's an opinion.  It can be debated, but it can't be shown to be true or false.

"All gun owners are psychopaths."  That's not an opinion, but a statement of (supposed) fact.  It too can be debated, but it can, in fact, be shown to be true or false.

Anyway.
 
r ranson
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Alternatively:

All guns should be outlawed.



I feel that all guns should be outlawed.

(of course, the word 'should' is also a problem)

All gun owners are psychopaths



Implies that some members of permies are less than perfect and the post will most likely be removed.  The best thing to do here is to use the report button to speed up the process. 
 
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