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Forum:Rethinking "Snarky point of view"

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So... it's a source of contention. It's a source of concern for articles about living people. It's sometimes a source of excuses for bad information. Is "Snarky point of view" a tradition for tradition's sake?

It's certainly true that we don't want a neutral point of view when our focused topics are so often not deserving of fairness, and love the balance fallacy to give themselves false legitimacy. But is snarky the right tone anymore?

I'd like to raise some other possibilities to consider. Please post your subsections if you have ideas. Ikanreed (talk) 16:19, 6 February 2015 (UTC)

A RATIONAL point of view[edit]

So... this one is a natural consideration, and I'm inclined not to look it because of how little people tend to misunderstand rationalism, and how much debate it would foment. Ikanreed (talk) 16:19, 6 February 2015 (UTC)

I am supportive of something other than snark. If RW is to be a well regarded resource, it should have good information and the snark gets in the way. Despite the we're-not-an-encyclopedia thing, we largely are inasmuch we provide information. Nothing wrong with good rhetoric outside of logos, but it can be awfully distracting. Sterile (talk) 03:47, 7 February 2015 (UTC)
I also am supportive of something other than snark. Rationalism would be a preferred far above snark as (a) that is he fundamental premise of this wiki, (b) snark is not effective. I'm sure it's fun for the snarker, but the method gets in the way of the message as giving time to that other view and snark undercuts the whole notion of rationalism is a way to handle things. Rationalism as preferred first choice then, and if you want to talk rationalism then focus on the rationalism as good as can be to maximize the credit and benefit seen of rationalism. With awareness that (a) like everything it has features, rules and bounds, so there will be limits to where it conveys well or not; and (b) advocate folks to value rationalism and allow as part of inclusive set of approaches. I'm not stressed if an audience likes empiricism sometimes and rationalism other times, I think a mix is normal and better and exclude mixed values would drastically limit the audience. Markbassett (talk) 04:00, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
I do not believe that rationalism is the fundamental premise of this wiki. I would like to believe that the wiki serves an audience in search of information uncontaminated by bullshit, using that word in a sense consistent with Prof. Frankfurt's work on the subject.
The RationalWiki audience may be viewed in very general terms as including the choir, which can be fun to preach to, the open-minded middle susceptible to persuasion, and those who are impervious to reason, humor, or anything short of an authoritative smack up alongside the head. Note well: most folks live their lives blissfully unaware that RationalWiki even exists. I don't think the RW mission includes outreach to that last group, but I've been wrong before.
I emphatically agree that a mix of empiricism and rationality is far better than excluding either one. One without the other is heads without tails, or vice versa. Rationality, without a base of empirically-supported premises, is so useless as to be laughable, possibly excepting investigations of pure logic or mathematics. Alec Sanderson (talk) 04:49, 13 February 2015 (UTC)

An honest (but factual) point of view[edit]

Here's my main proposal. We should address subjects for what they are, calling a spade a shovel, and calling a hopelessly made up idea exactly that. Not shying away from having a perspective, but trying to incorporate as much valid scientific fact as possible along the way. Ikanreed (talk) 16:19, 6 February 2015 (UTC)

I think the problem is more how some folks interpret "snarky." My understanding has always been that SPOV was there as a way to suggest that while we should still be properly debunking and countering arguments rationally, there's still place for a bit of sarcasm or a light quip here and there to emphasize our points. I suppose I always saw it as a way to indicate that perhaps we shouldn't be as sterile as Wikipedia, not as an excuse to let "snark" get in the way of actual constructive dialogue. - Grant (talk) 16:38, 6 February 2015 (UTC)
Correct. There are people who arrive here with the notion that "anything goes" and RW gets articles that look as if they are written by 15-year-olds.--ZooGuard (talk) 16:47, 6 February 2015 (UTC)
I gotta admit, I do like to have fun with things sometimes. Ikanreed (talk) 16:51, 6 February 2015 (UTC)
Sure, I'll get behind eliminating snark. I'll even enforce it ruthlessly. I'm very good at ruthless. It's how I operate IRL. --Castaigne (talk) 19:23, 6 February 2015 (UTC)
It shows.--ZooGuard (talk) 19:24, 6 February 2015 (UTC)
That's a good thing. Certainty is always desirable. --Castaigne (talk) 19:34, 6 February 2015 (UTC)

If it's really funny, great. But more often than not the snark on this wiki is less than worthwhile.

Instead of SciPOV vs SnaPOV, it should be SciPOV then SnaPOV. First, get referenced. Second, get snarky. Good humor always improves a point, but the point must be established first. Unfortunately, many RW articles snark before they ref, which turns RW into pooflinging. Should the Community Standards and/or "What is a RationalWiki article" be rewritten to emphasize references over snark, and editors encouraged to avoid unreferenced snark (UnSn)? oʇɐʇoԀʇɐϽʎzznℲ (talk/stalk) 03:09, 7 February 2015 (UTC)
I have to agree. While there are some articles where the tone is more "ranting blogpost-y" than article-y, actively trying to purge all of the snark would essentially require a massive overhaul of the wiki. Rather than an outright removal, making sure all bases are covered and preferably ref'd would definitely keep the wiki from looking like it's responding to viewpoints with "lololololol look how silly it is because it is silly lololololol". Noir LeSable (talk) 09:14, 9 February 2015 (UTC)

An idea: Create a template to place at the header of certain potentially controversial main spaces (kinda like a spoiler warning) that says, "This article contains relevant SPOV. Please direct comments and dissent to the Talk page".nobsI'm not from this planet, but let me tell u what I think.... 03:05, 24 May 2015 (UTC)

A cynically/sneeringly honest point of view[edit]

I always considered the snarky point of view as mostly this. It obviously strengthens the blow of the cynicism/sneer if you can back it up with scientific facts, so there's nothing wrong with stressing the importance of laying out the facts in the article (and <ref>ing them). (talk) 03:33, 7 February 2015 (UTC)

Keep snarky, you doofus[edit]

I guess this subjection is for chastising me as suggesting changes for no reason, or promoting the original POV on grounds not addressed until now. Ikanreed (talk) 16:19, 6 February 2015 (UTC)

WěǎšěǐǒǐďWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 19:17, 6 February 2015 (UTC)


Do you have any idea how much work it would be to remove the snark? You're proposing basically re-writing the wiki. It is also a dumb idea. It is taking Playboy, keeping the world-class essays, cultural coverage, and other fine writing the magazine has always featured, taking out the naked girls, and turning it into .... a magazine that literally nobody would buy. Rationalwiki was born of an unholy marriage of pro-science activism and Dennis-Miller-When-He-Was-Still-Funny biting sarcastic humour. What therefore GOAT hath joined together, let not man put asunder. Peace. AgingHippie (talk) 03:39, 7 February 2015 (UTC)

I know our underlying raison d'etre is serious but, for me, an important part of RW is that it should be fun. Fun to read, fun to edit, fun to be part of. We can't compete with the likes of Wikipedia - nor should we - but we do aim to be a valid resource. We can't catch or keep the readers with the sort of informed in-depth analysis that a wide range of editors can bring to the table - although it would be nice if we could - so we need to keep their attention with wit among the wisdom, or, failing that, snark.
And, yeah, I know, one person's snark is another person's juvenilia but with a bit of work.... Doxys Midnight Runner (talk) 10:13, 9 February 2015 (UTC)
there is a miniscule line between snark and being a prick and It is no surprise that snark is the favoured tool of pricks the world over. There is too much back slapping over zingers delivered to or about acceptable targets that the line being crossed is missed. It does not make this site a very welcoming place, particularly if your point of view differs from the orthodoxy. Of course this is all compounded by the fact that snark has never been particularly funny to begin with. AMassiveGay (talk) 23:25, 12 February 2015 (UTC)
My impression is snarky point of view seems like it came from a place of "let's not be wikipedia, let's tell people what's actually going on, but not take ourselves too seriously". And that worked in an environment where everyone was already friends, and no one was suing. Well the taking things seriously part has now officially happened, and untangling that web and figuring out what best fits the mission is kinda hard. Ikanreed (talk) 23:40, 12 February 2015 (UTC)
Let's not confuse "fun" with "libellous." Snark doesn't have to extend to include stuff that is actionable. Peace. AgingHippie (talk) 23:45, 12 February 2015 (UTC)
I don't think I was making that conflation, but thanks for the input. It's just the case that by the demands of law rational-wiki has at least some 100% serious business to contend with. Ikanreed (talk) 02:42, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
You did say "and no one was suing." I just don't want the conversation we need to have -- about minimizing our tendency to undermine the project with statements we shouldn't be making -- to get pushed into the territory of "let's make RW what it was never meant to be", ie no fun. Peace. AgingHippie (talk) 02:48, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
I'm with DMR on this one. I've always found RW fun, both to edit and also for information. I honestly use the site for reference on certain topics instead of WP because it's a damn site easier to get the info here than trawl through dry as a bone WP - also the fact RW isn't afraid to call BS what it is also makes it genuinely valuable and informative. TheEgyptian¿Dígame? 11:21, 13 February 2015 (UTC)

Keep it Snarky[edit]

So everyone knows you're a bunch of smug know-it-all halfwits who think mindlessly parroting the PC zeitgeist established by the powers that be is some kind of intellectual achievement. (talk) 02:55, 13 February 2015 (UTC)

So, are you from KiA, the Neo-Reactionaries, 8Chan, or someone else who's pissed at RW today? :D --Castaigne (talk) 05:11, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
Long live goat! I would leave in an instant if there were no snark. Snark drew me in in the first place. Snark is poking fun and the pompous half-wits (in a non-libelous manner). Snark is not even necessarily untrue. I had one snarky comment removed once for being "too snarky" (circumcision: "the most unkindest cut of all" ); that's fine; I don't care, I'm not going to pick a fight about it. But no snark: forget it; I'll go back to Wikipedia for the occasional edit. Bongolian (talk) 06:36, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
It is true that one of RW's huge strengths is being able to call a spade a fucking shovel when it's important to do so - David Gerard (talk) 12:37, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
"the most unkindest cut of all" That's what snark should look like: funny and lighthearted, not awkward, hateful, editorializing, and empty. Nutty Roux (talk) 13:22, 13 February 2015 (UTC)

Write WAY better[edit]

Suggestion: Lazy snark is easy. Understated snark is harder, but way way better writing. Unless you're pretty confident you can channel Stephen Fry levels of subtle snark, play it straight - David Gerard (talk) 12:32, 13 February 2015 (UTC)

Definitely! Snark must past some form of the Fry Test. Even just the semi-Fry Test (like Stephen Fry using only half his brain). MarmotHead (talk) 18:18, 13 February 2015 (UTC)

The Snark is Life[edit]

Snark is an integral part of effective rationalism. It's used by Orac, Skeptic's dictionary, Bad Science, Quackwatch and goodness know how many others. Even outside rationalism, it's oft-used on (sometimes accidentally) educational websites like Popehat. Not only does it give colour to an otherwise dry and boring article, but when describing nonsense the use of a straight tone can lend credence to a daft idea. The way it is written about influences what we think of it. Every source on effective communication recommends the use of some humour in presentation. If the RW snark is sometimes lazy, it's a wiki: get in there and improve it. If RW hadn't had snark, not only would I have never started editing it, I would never have bothered reading it. Queexchthonic murmurings 12:52, 13 February 2015 (UTC)


I find that the simplest path is to describe whatever you're talking about in the simplest and most concrete terms possible while not letting the subject use their own jargon. "Astrologers say that people born in the sun sign Aries are impetuous and headstrong. This is in part because they associate Aries with the planet Mars. And the planet Mars's namesake is the deity Mars, a god of war...." It's halfway to being funny already just because we've restated the substance without recourse to the jargon of "planetary rulerships" and so forth. - Smerdis of Tlön, A ⇒ ¬A. 18:07, 13 February 2015 (UTC)

How About Loons?[edit]

There are certain terms that seem to cause more trouble than others. Cranks, quacks, and kooks come to mind. Why not loons instead? It works for the Encyclopedia of American Loons; they haven't had any legal trouble in their 5 or so years of existence and if you Googling you will see posts by said documented loons complaining about being featured there. I don't recommend getting rid of wingnut or moonbat either, since I've never heard anything actionable over those terms as well. Thoughts? --Castaigne (talk) 01:26, 13 February 2015 (UTC)

How is it any different from crank or kook? WēāŝēīōīďWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 01:29, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
I don't know that it is. I just haven't seen evidence of people getting as uptight about it. S'why I'm putting the thought out. --Castaigne (talk) 01:30, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
My thoughts: Instead of using "loon", "kook", "crank", etc., which are effectively snarl words, why not avoid any such potentially litigable words and just describe whatever the person's insanity is? (Preferably with snark.) Doing so does a much better job of documenting pseudoscience than saying that somebody is in one of a few "this guy is really stupid" boxes. oʇɐʇoԀʇɐϽʎzznℲ (talk/stalk) 01:49, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
Probably because I don't regard those words as snarl words, as they are apt descriptors of people? I'm the wrong person to ask; I'm known for calling a raving nutter the same to their face. And frankly, I can't think of anything remotely snarky to put in regular sentences. As an example, "Gene Ray is a schizophrenic with a fixation on his own version of physics. The entirety of his Time Cube theory does not conform to any verifiable knowledge of the science of physics." I would...then follow that with a section on the history of Gene Ray, his notable appearances and debates, and then a brief section on what Time Cube is all about. And then...that's it. There's nothing more to be said. It's been put down plainly and stated factually and there's nothing left to add.
I dunno. I don't have any other good suggestions to make. I already feel that my entries and edits are humorless as they are. (But then, I don't find humor in anything but morbid humor and schadenfreude.) --Castaigne (talk) 02:21, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
See, the thing is that humor and namecalling are both unnecessary. If an article has humor, good. If not, no harm. If an article has namecalling, bad. If not, no harm. I think calling somebody a crank (basically saying that their ideas are stupid and eccentric, without actually proving it) is unnecessary; just say that their ideas are stupid and eccentric. oʇɐʇoԀʇɐϽʎzznℲ (talk/stalk) 02:47, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
Use cranks, quacks, loons and kooks as much as possible. Also work on your psychological projection article. (talk) 02:56, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
I do believe I do prefer loon as an appellation for someone who's ideas are stupid and eccentric. --Castaigne (talk) 05:12, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
The terms differ and emotional response might very - crank means easily angered, kook means crazy, loon means simpleton or foolish ideas. I would suggest focus on rational content and showing what's right and wrong as more important than tweaking how to shape the snark. — Unsigned, by: Markbassett / talk / contribs
They'll have had no trouble because they're tiny and unknown. Over the years, we've become increasingly popular and a go-to site on a lot of these people. We are a target and we weren't one before. We're playing in bigger leagues now. (As a board member I find this more than a little frightening ...) That said, it's quite fun to use them as a reference (as long as it isn't a circular reference, they cite RW a lot). - David Gerard (talk) 12:33, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
Correct me if I'm wrong, but Loons is a site run by one person and, thus, can be more clearly seen as one person's opinion backed up by various facts. Is that a real difference or only a relevant after a person has been sued? MarmotHead (talk) 18:14, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
Does anyone here have professional experience in the journalism industry? I just realized that the rest of "the big leagues" have to deal with this all the time. Ikanreed (talk) 19:32, 13 February 2015 (UTC)


When a decision is reached about shit happening and whatever, how does RW deal with it? Like, is there gonna be some big fucking editing campaign or some shit? Like, while most articles I've read and edited under different guises have been close to fucking stellar, there are still MASSIVE amounts of shitty shit, and removing it all would take a huge amount of co-ordinated effort. Considering how the entire community flips the fuck out about everything, is it really going to be possible to organise something like this, if doing so is a thing that you decide? Or, on the other side of the coin, will it be good for the community to be distracted by useful shit instead of whatever the fuck you cunts have been doing for the past couple of months? Just some shit to consider. Oxyisabitch (talk) 14:09, 14 February 2015 (UTC)

It does fundamentally rest on people being not just willing, but interested in doing the work, yes - David Gerard (talk) 17:05, 14 February 2015 (UTC)