User:Brian/Modest proposal

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The powers that be at Conservapedia have often accused RationalWiki of promoting vandalism and having no purpose other than to be against CP. In deference to their claims, this is a modest proposal to Conservapedia outlining several factors that can be addressed in order to help them better meet their goal of creating a concise, conservative online encyclopedia.


The first matter Conservapedia needs to address is clearly defining the goals of the project. Every successful business or organization needs to have a clear set of goals which they can use to continually evaluate the decisions they are making.

There is currently no clear set of goals defined for the site. The About page states that CP "is rapidly becoming one of the largest and most reliable online educational resources of its kind"[1] however it never defines what kind of educational resource it is striving to be. That page implies that the goal is to become a copy of Wikipedia with articles written from a conservative perspective. However, this clearly isn't the case because many times Andy has stated that CP should not have articles on many pop-culture and obscure topics like british royalty that WP welcomes.[2]

Answering the following questions will help to define Conservapedia's goals:

  1. Who are the intended writers of CP articles? Home schooled children? Conservatives? Christians? Young Earth Creationists? Experts in the field of discussion? Anyone, including liberals?
  2. What type of educational resource does Conservapedia wish to become? A general encyclopedia?[3] A storage area for online courses for home schooled children?[4] A legal compendium of Supreme Court decisions?[5] A database of communist spies?[6] A comprehensive list of ships?[7] A point-by-point refutation of Wikipedia's liberal bias?
  3. What is the definition of "Conservative" that is used when evaluating article content?
    • The CP article on conservatives never mentions Christianity[8], however that is clearly the dominant belief system expressed by CP editors and sysops
    • There is no mention of Young Earth Creationism in the definition, however the YEC view is constantly placed above the views of Old Earth Creationism and theistic evolution[9][10]
  4. Should Conservapedia articles take the approach of presenting both sides of an issue (since the claim is that WP doesn't present the conservative viewpoint) and allowing the user to make their own decision, or should articles actively advocate for the conservative position?
  5. What type of information is considered inappropriate for Conservapedia?
    • Pornography has been clearly stated as being inappropriate. Artistic representations of nudity (like the status of David[11] and Venus de Milo[12]) are displayed in articles, but some medical images, like an instructional image of a breast self exam was removed from that article because it was "highly graphic and offensive."[13] Who defines what is acceptable and what is porn?
    • Profanity is inappropriate, but are articles which discuss human anatomy from a medical perspective also inappropriate? What about breast cancer or breastfeeding?
    • At what point does discussion of a scandal become more than just gossip and warrant inclusion into an article?[14]
  6. Is it acceptable to insert stub articles taken from public domain sources in the hope that they will be eventually expanded by later editors?

Defining a clear set of goals for the site will make it clear to readers and new editors what they should be expecting and gives Conservapedia a basis to compare their current position with where they want to eventually be.


The Conservapedia Commandments page states that "This page is the only rule page on Conservapedia. These guidelines are kept simple in order to avoid the arbitrary and biased enforcement that is rampant on Wikipedia"[15] however that statement is immediately followed by a list of 11 additional pages which "also govern [Conservapedia]."[16] All the rules/guidelines/commandments and anything else governing the site should be listed on one easy to find page.

  • For simple, small websites, having a concise list of very few rules may be a realistic goal, but for a growing publicly-editable encyclopedia with strict content requirements, it is simply not an ideal approach to governing.
  • Trying to cover many strict regulations with only a few short rules leads to broad vague rules and putting the onus on the sysops to subjectively interpret those rules.[17] In a legal environment, this would be called "judicial activism" which is decidedly non-conservative.[18]
  • Even if the list of rules isn't short, as long as each rule is well defined with clear consequences, it will allow new editors to begin contributing without violating unwritten or vague rules that rely on precedents established by sysops long before the new user joined.[19]
  • The final reason for having clear rules is that it reduces opponents' abilities to claim arbitrary enforcement or abuse by sysops. People may not like all the rules, but they will be able to respect that all the rules are applied fairly and uniformly.
  • Rules should apply to every editor, regardless of title. Having a group of users, such as sysops, who are above the rules sets a bad example for regular users, and causes a hypocritical, "do what I say, not what I do" attitude to emanate from sysop actions. Conservapedia likes to claim that they are a meritocracy[20], superior to the "mobocracy" of Wikipedia, however having a class of users who are above the law enforcing their whims on the lower class is very oligarchic, which would seem to be against the capitalistic, democratic ideals that CP espouses.

Sysop Duties[edit]

Many current rules and guidelines say that an editor should ask for sysop approval before taking a certain action, such as creating a new template[21], redirecting a page[22], creating a new category[23], etc. None of these rules specify which sysop to contact. This leads to users posting identical requests on multiple talk page, resulting in duplication of effort or frustration of users who end up getting pointed to a different page by the original sysop they ask.

  • If certain sysops are assigned to certain tasks, it reduces the confusion and duplication of effort and posting currently required
  • Conservapedia should define a primary and backup sysop to each administrative task, in order to make sure tasks get covered when a sysop is away. A sysop on an extended break can easily specify a different sysop as a point of contact to be used during his or her absence.
  • An alternative is to provide a single location that is constantly monitored by sysops where any user can request a task be performed. There is currently a Sysop Desk page, but some sysops have taken over certain administrative tasks, like categorization, and do not seem to appreciate when users ask other sysops to handle them.


Conservapedia claims to value intellectualism much more than Wikipedia[24], and to welcome experts. In order to back this up, CP should encourage users to state their academic and professional credentials on their user page, and create a centralized list of users with credentials in certain areas (like chemistry, law, internal medicine, etc) in order to give users a point of contact for questions they may have about those areas.

  • No personally identifying information would be necessary, but when comparing edits by a user who has a high school diploma vs one with a PhD in Biochemistry when discussing a topic like cell mutations, it will be much easier to come to a conclusion about who is more knowledgeable on the subject.
  • Conservapedia claims to invite intellectuals and discourages a mobocracy run by unqualified editors, it seems to make sense to have users state their qualifications.
  • A user having no academic or professional experience with a certain subject wouldn't bar them from contributing; it would just make them less of an authority on the matter than someone who does have the qualifications.
  • It will help dispel criticism if outside readers can see that the person writing an article has experience and credentials to back up their words.
  • Some educational claims may need to be verified, such as an MD or a PhD, but in general, assuming good faith should be a good policy.


Conservapedia needs to create a policy governing what type of facts must be cited. Currently, it is stated that things that are obvious don't need to be stated, however "obvious" is never defined.

A possible set of criteria:

  1. Anything that would be obvious to a freshman in high school (13 years old) doesn't need to be cited
  2. Every quotation must have a citation, preferably one which gives the full context of the quote. This can eliminate any accusations of quote mining.
  3. Anything that is contrary to conventional wisdom should be cited
  4. If an editor claims a statement is "obvious" (after a {{fact}} tag is inserted) it shouldn't be hard for them to come up with a citation to demonstrate it to a doubting user


  1. Conservapedia:About page
  2. Examples of Bias in Wikipedia #46 states that: "Many hundreds of thousands of Wikipedia articles -- perhaps over half its website -- are about music, Hollywood, and other topics beneath a regular encyclopedia"
  3. Conservapedia's logo refers to it as "The Trustworthy Encyclopedia"
  4. Conservapedia Index listing lectures, term lists, and exams
  5. Supreme Court Project
  6. Category for KGB spies?
  7. Category:Ships
  8. Article on "Conservative"
  9. Origin of the Moon edit where Conservative literally moves the YEC position above all other explainations
  10. There is no criticism section in the YEC article unlike in the OEC article
  11. David
  12. Venus de Milo
  13. Discussion of breast exam image
  14. List of Bill Clinton's scandals
  15. Conservapedia Commandments
  16. List of other rule articles. Note that the Conservapedia Guidelines category contains 9 articles on its own
  17. Comment by TK stating that "Administrators here are the sole judge of what is appropriate" and admiting the other Sysops would view things less strictly
  18. Judicial activism article
  19. Andy making a statement proclaiming a precedent that is not stated in any rule list
  20. ASchlafly's talk page where he states "As I've repeatedly said, Conservapedia is a meritocracy"
  21. Template submission process
  22. Manual of Style section on creating redirects
  23. TK's page dealing with categorization
  24. Differences with Wikipedia #14