If you cannot say anything nice, quote somebody famous. [citation needed] May 9, 2012 11:04 AM   Subscribe

This is the [citation needed] thread.

So I just got a wag of the finger for using the classic [citation needed]. To be fair, it was part snark, but there absolutely was a grain of contention that I believed needed clarification. A little research shows me 642 comments out there that include it, so clearly I'm not the first.

Personally I think it's an excellent way to request clarification on a specific utterance, since it allows one to highlight the specific phrase that is under debate without entering in personal viewpoints or regional bias that typing out an actual sentence would convey. (Ockhams Razor anybody?) I'd imagine that it's meaning is also nearly universally understood on the interwebs due to it's use in Wikipedia.

So two questions to the viewers; is this acceptable? and is there a better way to dispute and/or ask for clarification that doesn't include the possibility of being misunderstood?
posted by Blue_Villain to Etiquette/Policy at 11:04 AM (186 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

It would have been pretty easy to look for the information yourself, and failing that, to say something like, "I googled this assertion and can't find anything. Got any support for that piece of information?"

So it was a little overly snarky. But no, it didn't deserve the "asshat" response.
posted by Etrigan at 11:08 AM on May 9, 2012


[citation needed] Really? I'm not sure I agree. Do you have a source for that?

FTFY.

Sits back and awaits the "FTFY is lazy and rude" thread.
posted by gauche at 11:09 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


The thread is question. You claimed that this was your way of asking "cleverly and politely" for more information. My assertion is that your request was one but not both of these.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:10 AM on May 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


Really? I'm not sure I agree.

Asking for a source is not the same as expressing disagreement. No one should have a finger wagged at them for asking for a source.
posted by John Cohen at 11:11 AM on May 9, 2012 [14 favorites]


"Hey, do you have a link or cite for that? I'm really curious about the subject."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:11 AM on May 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


So two questions to the viewers; is this acceptable?

In the narrow policy sense that it's not something that'll automatically get deleted, yes. But it's schticky and almost never reads completely neutrally, so it's not a great way to engage on a topic as it automatically puts folks on the defensive.

and is there a better way to dispute and/or ask for clarification that doesn't include the possibility of being misunderstood?

I think you're gonna be in much better shape basically every time if instead of "[citation needed]" you say "I wasn't aware of that / that doesn't match with my understanding, can you point out a source for that information?" It's explicit, it's straightforward, and it does what "[citation needed]" does in terms of expressing a need for information without having the weird snarky baggage of throwing a catchphrase at someone.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:11 AM on May 9, 2012 [11 favorites]


TBH I'm kind of amazed that whole stupid conversation didn't get nuked from orbit.
posted by Artw at 11:12 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


And possibly-worth-mentioning metacomment: a certain amount of prolixity in the service of politesse is not only acceptable but necessary in conversation amongst strangers. You are challenging someone's facts in public: it's okay to err on the side of politeness and give them a chance to save face when doing so.
posted by gauche at 11:13 AM on May 9, 2012 [16 favorites]


and is there a better way to dispute and/or ask for clarification that doesn't include the possibility of being misunderstood?

Well, you clearly know the answer to this, since your followup comment in the relevant thread did it:

http://www.metafilter.com/115757/Well-that-explains-a-lot#4336271

Your original post said that milk was better for you than coffee and gives you a pick-up quicker than most foods, however your response contains no information that relates to said subject. Your quote did mention things like candy bars and high fat sweets, but I pose to you that there are other options to, as you say get "a better wake-up than a cup of coffee". Some of those include foods, like fruits and vegetables, which as you said in your first post "gets real energy into your metabolic system" slower than milk.

Also, I was trying to cleverly and politely ask for clarification as to why you thought milk was better than food at these things.


Why not just ask such questions in regular English in the first place?
posted by advil at 11:14 AM on May 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Really? I'm not sure I agree. Do you have a source for that?

I like [citation needed] specifically because it says the same thing with a built-in snarky and dismissive tone. It still has a place on mefi, imo.
posted by Think_Long at 11:15 AM on May 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also, I was trying to cleverly and politely ask for clarification as to why you thought milk was better than food at these things.

Why not just ask such questions in regular English in the first place?


Hardly counts as clever.
posted by axiom at 11:16 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Asking for a source is not the same as expressing disagreement.

That's true. I suspect it often feels like disagreement, particularly when the request is terse. If you're just genuinely interested in finding a source, it is also worth spending a few words to show it.
posted by gauche at 11:16 AM on May 9, 2012


It's an obnoxious expression and is mostly used to be obnoxious. I'm glad the mods are now deleting it.
posted by Dasein at 11:16 AM on May 9, 2012


TBH I'm kind of amazed that whole stupid conversation didn't get nuked from orbit.

Flipped a coin, it came up tails.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:16 AM on May 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


[citation needed] is pretty lazy and glib, in my opinion, but i'm not sure if banning it is a solution.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:17 AM on May 9, 2012


I like [citation needed] specifically because it says the same thing with a built-in snarky and dismissive tone. It still has a place on mefi, imo.

Right, because this place wants for more snarky dismissiveness of members.
posted by gauche at 11:17 AM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Shit, it's kind of hard not to do.
posted by gauche at 11:18 AM on May 9, 2012 [22 favorites]


i just think it's hilarious that there is unpleasantness in a thread about buttermilk. i mean, buttermilk? it's possible to argue about buttermilk? metafilter never ceases to amaze me.
posted by facetious at 11:18 AM on May 9, 2012 [28 favorites]


Huh. I went back and looked at that comment, and it didn't strike me as snarky at all; it just looked like someone saying "Do we know this is true?" without typing out a full sentence. I think the snarkiness assumption might be something that some folks project on [citation needed] because of XKCD, given that its usage in Wikipedia isn't snarky at all.
posted by davejay at 11:19 AM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


nothing goes better with a plate of beans than a nice tall glass of buttermilk.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:19 AM on May 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Everything you know about buttermilk is wrong.
posted by Artw at 11:20 AM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I know everything about buttermilk is wrong.
posted by gauche at 11:21 AM on May 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


I use [citation needed] as a response to various brands of woo I sometimes see being promoted. As I've used it, it's not a request for information, but a specific criticism of a comment made without any sort of reasonable basis. If I actually want more information, I ask for it.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 11:21 AM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]



Why not just ask such questions in regular English in the first place?


IANAL is faster than "I am not a lawyer", IMO is faster than "In my opinion", and [citation needed] is faster than "This claim seems spurious; can you provide evidence to support it?"

That's one possible answer, of course; YMMV.
posted by davejay at 11:22 AM on May 9, 2012


I think the snarkiness assumption might be something that some folks project on [citation needed] because of XKCD, given that its usage in Wikipedia isn't snarky at all.

This isn't Wikipedia. We can't go back and edit a comment and remove the [citation needed] tag.
posted by Etrigan at 11:24 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Actually, the combination of beans and buttermilk will give you great gastrointestinal distress..
posted by k5.user at 11:25 AM on May 9, 2012


I don't agree with a policy against [citation needed]; I think it only strengthens the community, regardless of the outcome.

"Factoids"

"Factoids" [Citation needed]

Outcome 1: "Why, check out this study (see page 87). You got served, Citation Asshat!"
Chorus: "Ooh, burn, asshat!"

Outcome 2: "I saw it on Facebook/Tumblr/my uncle told me about it/hairdresser is deeply involved in the group/I got nothin'"
Chorus: "Phew, we have been saved from error!"

I'm happy either way.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:25 AM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


ts usage in Wikipedia isn't snarky at all.

Oh, you don't know Wikipedia at all...
posted by Artw at 11:25 AM on May 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's not racquetball. You have time to pause and consider the discussion.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:31 AM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


IANAL and IMO and YMMV serve the opposite purpose to [citation needed]. The former are there to disclaim or qualify a certain amount of apparent forcefulness in one's own expressed opinion. They are there in the service of politeness and care for the reader / interlocutor's own opinion. The latter is a challenge to one's interlocutor in which that kind of consideration is entirely absent.

The former all say something like "this is how I think it is, it might not be the case for you". The latter says "your mouth just wrote a cheque your google-fu can't cash, and I don't care enough about your feelings to put it gently."

It's not just about shorthand: it's also about what that shorthand does to the conversation.
posted by gauche at 11:33 AM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Some other quotes, while we're citing things:

USE YOUR WORDS *
The failure mode of clever is “asshole.” *
Don't be a dick. *
posted by zamboni at 11:40 AM on May 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


MetaFilter: It's not racquetball.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:42 AM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am embarrassed for people who use it and I think that's punishment enough.
posted by michaelh at 11:48 AM on May 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


More than this, I want to know where Metafilter stands on the Occam / Ockham divide.
Warning: I got my position well staked out, and I'm ornery too.
posted by .kobayashi. at 11:48 AM on May 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


I know buttermilk is about everything wrong.
posted by aught at 11:49 AM on May 9, 2012


The latter says "your mouth just wrote a cheque your google-fu can't cash, and I don't care enough about your feelings to put it gently."

I don't use the phrase but it really doesn't say this, to me. It says "If you want us to accept the statement you just made, can you at least provide some corroboration other than just your own word?" This isn't "gentle" but honestly if someone is going to erupt into rage at such a request being posed the wrong way maybe they aren't so deserving of kid gloves and walking on eggshells around their claims.
posted by XMLicious at 11:49 AM on May 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


IANAL is faster than "I am not a lawyer", IMO is faster than "In my opinion", and [citation needed] is faster than "This claim seems spurious; can you provide evidence to support it?"

I’m not sure the fastest way to do things is the best.
posted by bongo_x at 11:56 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


[citation needed] assumes that rather than be content to leave a comment to stand on its own and leave any subsequent debate to others, that the target user has any interest in further comments and will return to the thread. Bad assumption.
posted by Ardiril at 11:57 AM on May 9, 2012


I personally hate [citation needed]. It’s stupid internet slang that screams "I’m so Web 2.0!". It's a childish "Oh yeah, prove it" statement.

People are having a discussion. It’s not required that everyone prove their point, or supply you links, or do your homework. We all use the same internet, more or less.
posted by bongo_x at 12:02 PM on May 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


[citation needed]

On Wikipedia the usage of this is ingrained and actually part of how Wikipedia works. Here it's not. It's easy to use as shorthand because the words sort of explain themselves so it's not cryptic, but if you're making a nod in Wikipedia's direction it's worth understanding that the context is different there.

- people often use it snarkily on Wikipedia and there are frequent disputes about how people use it and whether it's used punitively against people whose opinions people disagree with
- it's removable when someone has added a citation, as noted above
- citations are a required part of Wikipedia articles, they are not a required part of MetaFilter discussions.

While it's great to ask for more information if you either don't know about or don't believe something that someone is saying, we're real fans of the "Explain what you actually want, don't rely on shorthand from another part of the internet to make your point clearly for you" [see also "FTFY" and "JFGI"]

I'd imagine that it's meaning is also nearly universally understood on the interwebs due to it's use in Wikipedia.

You would be surprised how many people either don't pay attention to Wikipedia or don't care about how they do things there. One of the odd things about MeFi is that there is a mix of tech-native and less tech-saturated folks here. This often leads to a lot of interesting back and forth, but similar to pop culture references, it's best to assume that people aren't going to totally grok your meaning all the time.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:03 PM on May 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


I love "grok" in that particular sentence.
posted by cribcage at 12:07 PM on May 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


Also just to drive this point home, citations are required by Wikipedia articles, not by Wikipedians. If you don't know what someone is talking about on a Talk page, you absolutely don't toss in a [citation needed] indicator. They're not for "Hey I need to know more about this" they're specifically for "Hey there's a fact in this article that needs to be properly cited, so please add that cite to the article" The reason the xkcd comic is so funny, and why [citation needed] is considered snarky, is specifically because repurposing a tool that is used to build an encyclopedia with a request to enhance your own mental encyclopedia is a sort of internet-person conceit. Otherwise you'd just ask someone, in English, for more details while explaining what parts you didn't know or understand.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:08 PM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


People are having a discussion. It’s not required that everyone prove their point, or supply you links, or do your homework.

People use it not because they're genuinely curious where you got your information, but because they think you're full of shit and won't be able to find a source.

To me, it's basically a nice way of saying "I think you're full of shit." The problem is that if people keep using it when they mean "I think you're full of shit." then people just read it that way, and it stops being a nice way of saying it, because everyone knows what you mean.
posted by empath at 12:10 PM on May 9, 2012 [12 favorites]


Well, bless your heart, empath.
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 12:11 PM on May 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


♫ "Sometimes you wanna go, where everyone knows what you mean." ♫
posted by Ardiril at 12:17 PM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


[citation needed]
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:19 PM on May 9, 2012


I try to have faith in people, but we can't even manage to be respectful, polite and sincere when discussing MILK. MILK.
posted by Stagger Lee at 12:20 PM on May 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


And really, it was a terrible car. My sister had one and I was embarrassed for her even though I couldn't drive yet.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:22 PM on May 9, 2012


♫ "Sometimes you wanna go, where everyone knows your meme." ♫
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:23 PM on May 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


[citation needed] is bullshit pretension. I come to metafilter to read about interesting people and stuff, and to occasionally partake in an exchange of ideas with a variety of different people. I don't come here expecting or wanting peer reviewed fully cited academic works. (Unless that's what the FPP links to...) Instead of saying [citation needed] people should just say "NO UR RONG" and really cut to the heart of the matter. I don't truck with this fake wikipedia backpack dog jackassery.
posted by Mizu at 12:25 PM on May 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


It says "If you want us to accept the statement you just made, can you at least provide some corroboration other than just your own word?" This isn't "gentle" ...

What you just said, the part I quoted, is perfectly gentle. [citation needed] is a non-gentle way of saying the same thing. What it adds to the conversation is friction due to being perceived as snarky and dismissive and clever and not gentle. Insofar as this thread contains a number of gentle ways to ask for corroboration, it is evident that the friction generated by [citation needed] is not a necessary part of a spirited exchange of ideas.

If it adds friction, and it's not necessary, and you're doing it, you're in the neighborhood of starting shit.
posted by gauche at 12:26 PM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


fake wikipedia backpack dog jackassery

That sounds like a line from an early Beck song.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:27 PM on May 9, 2012 [25 favorites]


Imma take that compliment and run with it.
posted by Mizu at 12:28 PM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't come here expecting or wanting peer reviewed fully cited academic works.

I agree with this. The corollary is that I tend to roll my eyes at insistences that opinions be "cited," where "cited" usually means "hyperlinked to something on the Web." I'm a fan of libraries and schools and education, and if you read something in a book or learned it in a class then I want to hear about it regardless of whether you can also provide a webpage. Frankly, going to school impresses me more than reading a webpage.
posted by cribcage at 12:37 PM on May 9, 2012


This might help illustrate why adopting Wikipedia tropes here might not go well: Topper
posted by Lynsey at 12:46 PM on May 9, 2012


The corollary is that I tend to roll my eyes at insistences that opinions be "cited," where "cited" usually means "hyperlinked to something on the Web." I'm a fan of libraries and schools and education, and if you read something in a book or learned it in a class then I want to hear about it regardless of whether you can also provide a webpage. Frankly, going to school impresses me more than reading a webpage.

I totally agree with this, but when people are asked to back something up, it's usually not some piece of academia but an assertion which can be easily verified or debunked through Google. The problem I have with [citation needed] is it sucks all the joy out of doing the research yourself, and then strutting back into the thread with a smirk on your face to post the glorious refutation, preferably accompanied by "This thread ain't no country for TOLD men" or "Guess what? You've been leveled up in World of TOLDcraft". Why would you waste such an opportunity? Citation needed? Cite the counterevidence instead.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:49 PM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


OK, I don't actually recommend using "World of TOLDcraft" or the like, but the basic point of the fun of cited refutation vs. uncited assertion still stands.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:57 PM on May 9, 2012


I totally agree with this, but when people are asked to back something up, it's usually not some piece of academia but an assertion which can be easily verified or debunked through Google.

[▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓]
posted by vidur at 12:59 PM on May 9, 2012


Whoa, pb! That was fast!
posted by vidur at 1:00 PM on May 9, 2012


Lynsey: "This might help illustrate why adopting Wikipedia tropes here might not go well: Topper"

That, uh, doesn't really illustrate anything, except to illustrate why "I saw it on Wikipedia" might not be a sufficient response to [citation needed].
posted by Plutor at 1:00 PM on May 9, 2012


My assertion is that your request was one but not both of these.

That's quite generous of you. I'm not sure I see either.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:05 PM on May 9, 2012


why bring more people to cite
there are already plenty on this web cite
wokka wokka

posted by TwelveTwo at 1:06 PM on May 9, 2012


Though I've never used "[citation needed]" I've often been tempted to reply to a fantastical claim with the phrase "please show your work". Sometimes I even get as far as preview and then realize that it's a pretty shitty way to engage someone in a discussion.
posted by Doleful Creature at 1:06 PM on May 9, 2012


If I ever use [citation needed] outside the context of Wikipedia, it's because I mean to say "I don't believe a word you're saying, and I accuse you of talking out your ass."
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:35 PM on May 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


Not a particularly friendly, polite or constructive way to engage an internet stranger.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:38 PM on May 9, 2012


Well, for myself, I'd hesitate before pulling that on someone who was actually in the conversation at the time, because it's a dick move - not a derail-the-entire-thread-and-go-to-meta strength dick move in my book, but still a dick move.
posted by Artw at 1:40 PM on May 9, 2012


♫ "Sometimes you wanna go, where everyone knows what you mean." ♫

♫ "Sometimes you wanna go, where everyone knows your meme." ♫

It's everyBODY. Not everyone. [cite] Ugh. Kids these days.
posted by desjardins at 1:42 PM on May 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


♫ "Sometimes you wanna go, where everyone knows what you mean." ♫

I am so having a comma twitch right now.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:42 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm all for citations. Be that as it may people abuse citations just like everything else. I always appreciate the cites that are not factual proof of what someone is saying but insist they are right based upon the primacy they made a link to some bullshit. Good (waste of) times.
posted by Rocket Surgeon at 1:53 PM on May 9, 2012


Here's the thing. The original thing is two words. TWO WORDS. Every singe opinion about the meaning contained that's been listed in the 60+ comments is completely and totally within the posters head. It's not in the context of the actual post.

Now I've seen people assign context to thing before, most if not all humans do that by default. But to have people come in here and say that there's a truth-value to them, that there's a right or wrong way... to say two words?!? On the internet, a thing that spans an immense number of different cultures, where things can be taken in very different ways.

To me it's like a stop sign in the US. It's short, to the point, and its meaning is universally understood. It contains no gist or emotion. Sure, people tend to ignore them sometimes, most people I know roll through them. But that's not the fault of the sign maker... that's the fault of the drivers assigning a different meaning.

How do I know that it's happening? This thread is a perfect example. I post something that mentions a finger wag and then asks a very broad question with no reference to the other thread. Staff then come in and respond not to the question itself, but my use of descriptions in the other thread. I got more official responses to my use of "cleverly and politely" than I did the actual questions I posed. Anybody that's referenced the other thread has assumed that this was about the other thing and then assigned their own meaning.

And just to put this in perspective, this whole thing started because someone took something the wrong way. And then a whole bunch of people come in and give their opinions on what that thing means... completely missing the point.
posted by Blue_Villain at 1:53 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


[Citation needed] comes off as smirky and dismissive - in other words, rude - which is why you got a rude response. Not sure what's so confusing about that.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 2:00 PM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


in soviet russia, butter milks you
posted by facetious at 2:06 PM on May 9, 2012


I'm totally OK with [citation needed]. I don't see that the wordier versions of it achieve anything except prolixity.
posted by unSane at 2:07 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I post something that mentions a finger wag and then asks a very broad question with no reference to the other thread. Staff then come in and respond not to the question itself, but my use of descriptions in the other thread.

The context doesn't go away just because you decline to mention it. When the order of operations is this:

1. You say a thing in a thread.
2. Stuff happens in response to that.
3. A mod says "if you need to keep talking about this, do it in Metatalk".
4. You start a metatalk about the same thing you originally said.

...then it doesn't really start from scratch at (4). This isn't something coming from total vacuum; how it actually plays out, and how it played out specifically in the thread you were just participating in, is part of what's going on. If you'd rather that context not seem pretty explicitly tied to the discussion of "[citation needed]" you could sit on it for a month and then ask it then, maybe, but that's not what happened.

And just to put this in perspective, this whole thing started because someone took something the wrong way.

Well, someone took something sort of differently than how you intended, it seems like; you were going for clever and a bit snarky but polite, bukvich took it as not so polite or clever, bad feelings ensued. The arguments in here that it's a bit loaded and that going for intentional pithy snark isn't such a great idea is people telling you that what you intend and what you achieve with that particular one-liner aren't aligned. And that's fine, sometimes miscommunication happens and it's no big deal, but it's not inherently the fault of the receiver and not the sender when intent and effect don't line up.

If your interest is in getting an idea of what folks' collective reaction is to [citation needed], this thread is a decent resource: opinions are mixed, at least a fair chunk of folks here find it dismissive or snarky in a way that doesn't improve threads, you can choose how you feel about using it here in the future based on that. If you were aiming for something else with this thread, maybe go ahead and elaborate on that because I'm not clear what it is.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:10 PM on May 9, 2012


I don't think it's like a stop sign at all. To the extent that a stop sign is a message, it's a general message from the municipality to all drivers. It isn't conversational and it isn't personal. Context and connotation definitely exist as "truth values," so to speak. You don't even need two words. "Slender" is complimentary, "skinny" is not.
posted by cribcage at 2:10 PM on May 9, 2012


And then a whole bunch of people come in and give their opinions on what that thing means... completely missing the point.

Although clarity is sometimes terse, terseness is not always clear. As this thread shows, the two little words in question mean different things to different people, not all of them friendly or nice. Some people are not going to assume that your use of [citation needed] is friendly and well-intended. If you didn't know that before, you do now.

Notice that this has nothing to do with whether [citation needed] is objectively friendly, or rude, or more like a stop sign, or more like a slap in the face.* It has everything to do with whether you can count on other people to understand the phrase the way you mean it.

You can do with this information whatever you like, of course. But I'm curious to know -- in all honesty -- what point, in particular, you feel is being missed in this thread?

* Insofar as it means anything for a phrase to have an objective meaning outside of how it is taken.
posted by gauche at 2:11 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Staff then come in and respond not to the question itself, but my use of descriptions in the other thread.

cortex responded very specifically to both of your questions. I responded with a link to what you were talking about for people who might wonder what you were referring to and a commentary on why you may have been misunderstood. I appreciate that you're looking for a bit of context-free feedback, but people here aren't great at ignoring context and if this is the case, you may want to ask at a time other than when there has just been a slightly hackles-raised back and forth on MeFi.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:17 PM on May 9, 2012


Blue_Villain: “Here's the thing. The original thing is two words. TWO WORDS... To me it's like a stop sign in the US. It's short, to the point, and its meaning is universally understood. It contains no gist or emotion.”

"[citation needed]" isn't short at all. It's seventeen characters. "Citation?" is only eight characters, and it's polite, since you're making a request rather than implying that someone's comment was groundless. So not only is "[citation needed]" impolite – it's actually a waste of space and time.
posted by koeselitz at 2:34 PM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


IANAL is faster than "I am not a lawyer", IMO is faster than "In my opinion", and [citation needed] is faster than "This claim seems spurious; can you provide evidence to support it?"

To expand on what bongo_x said, it's not a freaking race. Typing two words vs. typing ten words? Is that such a crucial difference? Aside from snark, what possible need do we have for such speed? It's a conversation, not a contest. It would be swell if people started to think of it that way.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:36 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


>> fake wikipedia backpack dog jackassery

> That sounds like a line from an early Beck song.


Oh MeFi, lately you've been making me laugh like this.
posted by benito.strauss at 2:40 PM on May 9, 2012


I think [citation needed] is a little blunt, and it can be used to try to silence someone unfairly, but then so can the politer ways. Even in the most polite case, a challenge is just a little bit dickish just by it's nature. If you're at a dinner party and the person next to you is treating you like you're a lowly claimant and they are the world's blunt and efficient gatekeeper of truth, then you're probably going to conclude that person is a shit.

I don't think that's what you did. I don't have a problem with your [citation needed]. I think you probably would have done better to accept in good humor that the person with the citation would come back with a "here you go, you asshat" attitude.

But if the hat fits...
posted by fleacircus at 2:44 PM on May 9, 2012


In fact – you could totally just write "Cite?" and people would understand what you're talking about; you're asking for a citation. And that's only five characters. [citation needed] is more than three times longer than it needs to be. Not short at all.
posted by koeselitz at 2:46 PM on May 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Apropos of Occam's Razor, mentioned in the OP, has anyone else noticed that every novel you've read that was published in the last 10 or so years apparently has to mention Occam's Razor somewhere in the text? Is it a requirement these days, that in order to get your book published, you have to devote at least one paragraph to this cliche? I don't know if it's just the genre of book I tend to read, but I cannot get away from it.
posted by crunchland at 3:08 PM on May 9, 2012


When I read [citation needed], I hear it in the voice and intonation of the Lucy Liu robot from Futurama when she says, "MEMORY DELETED".
posted by soelo at 3:09 PM on May 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


"comma twitch" - It's a lyric thing. Plus, I don't subscribe to conventions with which I disagree.
posted by Ardiril at 3:10 PM on May 9, 2012


In fact – you could totally just write "Cite?" and people would understand what you're talking about; you're asking for a citation. And that's only five characters. [citation needed] is more than three times longer than it needs to be. Not short at all.

True dat.
posted by unSane at 3:23 PM on May 9, 2012


Back that thing up.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:32 PM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Occam's Razor

Not only that, but it's often used too quickly and in a way that gives preference to the conclusion that the author already wants to draw (at least in an academic context). Simplicity is good, but there's often not enough deep inspection to see if in the process, you shot the old paradigm somewhere in the foot and brought it limping along with you.
posted by SpacemanStix at 3:38 PM on May 9, 2012


Besides, these days Occam pretty much only uses his Galaxy III.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:41 PM on May 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Occam's iPhone?
posted by subbes at 3:45 PM on May 9, 2012


[annotated bibliography needed]
posted by perhapses at 3:46 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


1/2 the effing internet is terse and snarky.. hell 3/4 of twitter is.

The rest of the internet is too long and over thought.

[no cites provided]
posted by edgeways at 3:47 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm excited that in the future, whenever [citation needed] issues come up, we will be able to cite this thread.
posted by roger ackroyd at 3:50 PM on May 9, 2012


[The topic of this comment may not meet Metafilter's general notability guideline. Please help to establish notability by adding reliable, secondary sources about the topic. If notability cannot be established, the comment is likely to be merged, redirected, or deleted. Everybody needs a hug.]
posted by Artw at 3:53 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


[this is bullshit]
posted by Sys Rq at 3:54 PM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]




[back dat ass up]
posted by Burhanistan at 3:57 PM on May 9, 2012


Er, wait, damn, that's the wrong guy. I coulda sworn I'd seen Occam as in William-Of spelled as "Ockeghem" or something like that too. Did I hallucinate that?
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:57 PM on May 9, 2012


You are thinking of Ockham.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:00 PM on May 9, 2012


[please stick within the bounds of received wisdom] - which seems to be the function on Wikipedia half the time (moan, grar).
posted by Abiezer at 4:03 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure that people are going to get reasonably twitchy about "Cite?"

I think also that reading the Wikipedia Verifiability articles is instructive (mostly in terms of what the phrase "Citation needed" tends to imply):

Citation Needed
Citing Sources
Citing Sources: Dealing with unsourced material
  • If an article is unreferenced, you can tag it with the {{unreferenced}} template, so long as it is not nonsensical or a biography of a living person, in which case request admin assistance.
  • If a claim is doubtful but not harmful, use the {{citation needed}} template, which will add an inline tag, but remember to go back and remove the claim if no source is produced within a reasonable time.

posted by SMPA at 4:03 PM on May 9, 2012


Full disclosure: I only pull out the "Citation needed" when I'm feeling grouchy, but don't have sufficient time to delete the claim and make a case for that action on the talk page. It's a "SMPA doesn't like this and is pretty darned sure it's wrong, and if no one else cleans it up, she will" bookmark.
posted by SMPA at 4:05 PM on May 9, 2012


> A little research shows me 642 comments out there that include it, so clearly I'm not the first.

Personally I think it's an excellent way to request clarification on a specific utterance, since it allows one to highlight the specific phrase that is under debate without entering in personal viewpoints or regional bias that typing out an actual sentence would convey.


Your 643rd was the straw which broke my poor camel's back.

Citation needed is a lazy way of taking issue. But what really moved me into the asshat territory was the subject matter. And I apologize for losing it and stooping to name calling. Very poor form on my part.

But there is a point there which got sidetracked. And one of the people in that little exchange made the following explicit comment:

I have to force myself to eat breakfast most days, which is a pain.

When I got involved in the thread I was replying to somebody who said they considered drinking milk to be gross. Which I generally agree with. Totally. Except it just so happens that when I am half asleep first thing in the morning I am able to swallow it and it wakes me up better than a cup of coffee. This is not a research finding. It is anecdotal data.

Have you ever taken any time to read things like the American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide? Or waded through the reams of publications on the Pritikin diet, the Atkins diet, the Zone diet, the Paleo diet, the Sugar Busters diet, almost ad infinitum? As an amateur dilletante dietician I have got to say it looks like all we have is anecdotal data; there are no research findings; and a proper citation is a will-of-the-wisp-little-dreampuff-of-the-soul.

A large fraction (at least half) of the people I know who are fitness and diet fanatics swear by milk.

If you have never had the opportunity to drink the stuff straight out of a cow sometime, you definitely should try it at least once. That stuff is not merely gross. It is downright nauseating.

Blue_Villain I apologize for calling you an asshat. I encourage everybody who thinks it might be worth a try to drink a glass of milk first thing in the morning. I have no material interest in the dairy industry.
posted by bukvich at 4:09 PM on May 9, 2012


Blue_Villain I apologize for calling you an asshat.

That's what I like to hear.

Let's close this up.
posted by pracowity at 4:19 PM on May 9, 2012


[The topic of this comment may not meet Metafilter's general notability guideline. Please help to establish notability by adding reliable, secondary sources about the topic. If notability cannot be established, the comment is likely to be merged, redirected, or deleted. Everybody needs a hug.]
posted by Artw


I read this as Metafilter's general nobility guideline. Maybe we do need nobility guidelines!
posted by a humble nudibranch at 4:29 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


It sounds like somebody

[SUNGLASSES]

needs a citation

[YEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA]
posted by rebent at 4:33 PM on May 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Maybe we do need nobility guidelines!

Indeed, sir.

/smacks a humble nudibranch with a glove, proposes pistols at dawn.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:39 PM on May 9, 2012


[bacdafucup]
posted by Burhanistan at 4:42 PM on May 9, 2012


bukvich: "This is not a research finding. It is anecdotal data."

Maybe a better way to post you comment to avoid requests for citations would be,
For me a glass of milk is usually a better wake-up than a cup of coffee first thing in the morning. It feels like it gets real energy into my metabolic system faster than almost any food and it doesn't have to be replenished by a second cup of coffee an hour later when the caffeine from the first cup wears off.
but then maybe I'm an asshat.
posted by the_artificer at 4:58 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Goddammit. I've been grading Freshman research papers since 8am. This is not the break I was looking for.
posted by bibliowench at 5:02 PM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wonder if it might be possible (I certainly think it would be advisable) to add a note to the Metatalk thread posting page suggesting that if the MeTa post is in reference to some specific comment or thread elsewhere on the site, that the poster include a link to that thread.

It might not help with this endless series of mystery Metameat posts where we're meant to guess what the person is specifically talking (or more often complaining) about, but it couldn't hurt.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:11 PM on May 9, 2012


One of the bullets on the posting page says this:
If you're posting about something on the site (complaint, bug, issue, etc), please describe the problem with as much detail as you can. If it's a bug, describe exactly the steps you went through to see it and what browser/OS you are using. If it's an issue with content on the site, please provide a link to it and state exactly what you take issue with. Vague or nonsensical posts may be deleted.
Emphasis mine. To the degree that people are going to read the posting page guidelines in detail, I feel like the "link to it if it's relevant" thing is pretty much covered there, but folks may well (a) decline to read all that text or (b) disagree with the idea in their case that what prompted the metatalk is something they need to reference in the metatalk post itself, so there's not a whole lot more to do for it.

Thankfully the whole many eyes, many hands thing with a large community means this stuff is usually pretty much self-correcting and quickly when there's confusion about an omission, so we've got that going for us.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:26 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's the thing. The original thing is two words. TWO WORDS. Every singe opinion about the meaning contained that's been listed in the 60+ comments is completely and totally within the posters head. It's not in the context of the actual post.
Blue_Villain

But it's in the context of its use in wider internet culture. Words gain connotations based on usage. That's how language works. You're not using them in a vacuum, which is why you need to think about what you're writing before you write. You may have some meaning in your head that others don't get because of the language you use, and you need to be aware of this.

I'm actually surprised you're surprised because I, like the vast majority of people in this thread, have always seen [citation needed] used as shorthand for "this is bullshit, I don't believe you" in discussions online. It *always* is used in a dick way. There are a handful of posters in this thread who apparently weren't aware of that, and apparently you are one of them.

Well, now you know. It is not free of "gist or emotion", it's generally understand to be kind of dickish. If you are genuine in your desire for better understanding and aren't trying to be a dick, don't use it in the future.
posted by Sangermaine at 5:29 PM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


That, uh, doesn't really illustrate anything

I've seen other online communities discourage preceding a statement with "uh," or "um," as being snarky. Is there a settled view on this chez Metafilter?
posted by in278s at 6:34 PM on May 9, 2012


There's not even a settled view on how to pronounce the abbreviated name of the site, so I don't think there is one about "uh" either. For what it's worth, I don't automatically think of people using it to mean"You're a dick" type of snarky just more like "I might be being a little bit of a dick" snarky.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:37 PM on May 9, 2012


Which is just about how [citation needed] strikes me, personally. Thanks. (Mee-fye, of course! Meffy, my ass.)
posted by in278s at 6:42 PM on May 9, 2012


It's pronounced mefi.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:51 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


If Lester Bangs is to be believed, he spent most of his life thinking that in 'Good Vibrations,' the Beach Boys were singing "She's givin' me citations' and imaging a sexy female motorcyle cop.
posted by jonmc at 7:04 PM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


What I think is quite hilarious is my 'got a link' seems to be treated as a [citation needed] 'gotcha,' when in actuality I just love reading old drama, and I had a nice conversation out-of-the-thread with Artw.

The more clarification the better, is what I'm saying.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:15 PM on May 9, 2012


Is there a settled view on this chez Metafilter?

Not that I've noticed. I don't think it's come up much, though I'm fairly certain it has come up in passing once or twice in one thread or another.

I tend to read it as kind of jerkish, but then I also find myself tempted to use it in that capacity now and then and have probably not always managed to weigh the desire to not be a jerk more heavily than the desire to get a zing in. I suspect there are people for whom it does not read jerkish, and who do not intend it that way when they use it. But it's one of those things where it doesn't require a unanimous agreement on its jerkishness for it to cause friction, since if only half the people in the room think you're being snarky for no good reason they're still likely to react accordingly.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:59 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


>[back dat ass up]

[Put your hand upon my hip, when i dip you dip we dip]
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:32 PM on May 9, 2012


[Put your hand upon my hip, when i dip you dip we dip]

[citation needed]
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:37 PM on May 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm actually surprised you're surprised because I, like the vast majority of people in this thread, have always seen [citation needed] used as shorthand for "this is bullshit, I don't believe you" in discussions online. It *always* is used in a dick way. There are a handful of posters in this thread who apparently weren't aware of that, and apparently you are one of them.

I would imagine that, yes, there are indeed "a handful of posters" who have, at one time or another, seen a Wikipedia article and not got het up in the slightest. I am one such person.

There is nothing -- nothing! -- dickish about [citation needed]. The vast majority of instances on the internet are simple, concise pleas for more information. It can be used dickishly, certainly; anything can. But in and of itself, what's the problem?

I'm a hugely cynical asshole myself, but it's truly baffling to me that anyone could possibly read so much ill intent into something so utterly innocuous.

(That said, in this instance, yep, totally worthy of deletion.)
posted by Sys Rq at 9:05 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sys Rq: “There is nothing -- nothing! -- dickish about [citation needed]. The vast majority of instances on the internet are simple, concise pleas for more information. It can be used dickishly, certainly; anything can. But in and of itself, what's the problem?”

I think a lot of times people probably mean it that way. What's perceptibly dickish about it, though, is that it actually isn't a plea for information. Requests for information generally are formulated as actual questions, even if those questions are very short. [citation needed] is a note to people in general, not the author of the comment it's responding to, that the comment lacks apparent grounding. That's what people feel is dickish about it, I think. It's not asking for something; it's announcing to the room that either citation should be provided or the claim shouldn't be believed.

I guess people don't necessarily always mean it that way, but since that's what it means on Wikipedia, I think it has that immediate sense a lot of times.
posted by koeselitz at 9:16 PM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Note: Everyone needs a pug.
posted by infinite intimation at 9:21 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


To be fair, it was part snark

To be fair, then, what's your point?
posted by J. Wilson at 9:29 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


problem with snark, there's no such thing as part snark.
posted by polymodus at 11:28 PM on May 9, 2012


Snark is snark even at homeopathic doses--- that means everything is snark!
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:30 PM on May 9, 2012


I've seen other online communities discourage preceding a statement with "uh," or "um," as being snarky. Is there a settled view on this chez Metafilter?

I'm against it.
posted by pracowity at 11:40 PM on May 9, 2012


I think this whole situation is ridiculous. A dude was mildly dickish and got mildly chastised for it. What part of that warrants all this?

I've seen other online communities discourage preceding a statement with "uh," or "um," as being snarky. Is there a settled view on this chez Metafilter?

That's TWOP jackassery. Don't let Metafilter go down that road. We don't need arbitrary bans, even unofficial ones, on marginally rude writing habits. What we need is for people to mind their own stylistic business. Write the way that seems right to you and let other people do the same, save in exceptional circumstances. Worrying about others' use of "um" is downright unhealthy.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 12:28 AM on May 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


MetaFilter: It's not racquetball.

So how come I keep getting served?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:35 AM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I believe Mr Humphries is free.
posted by Wolof at 12:50 AM on May 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


So how come I keep getting served?

Everybody's just taking Dylan's advice?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:02 AM on May 10, 2012


Using the term "[citation needed]" is way to avoid using the term you really want to use: "Bullshit".

And using the terms "uh" or "um" aren't ways to be more dickish. They are used when your statement would already be dick, and you are trying to find a way to soften the, um, dick.
posted by BurnChao at 2:34 AM on May 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Everything I know about buttermilk is wrong! It's made from Sherman Williams paint, and it's used to treat malaria.
posted by JHarris at 4:01 AM on May 10, 2012


Metafilter: trying to find a way to soften the, um, dick.
posted by in278s at 4:12 AM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


there's no such thing as part snark

Maybe, maybe not.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:55 AM on May 10, 2012


Oh Christ, really? Really? Even ultra-low level not-even-really-registering-on-the-snark-o-meter stuff like [citation needed] is unacceptable now?

Lighten the hell up.
posted by Decani at 8:11 AM on May 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


JHarris: "It's made from Sherman Williams paint, and it's used to treat malaria."
Tonic water is used to treat malaria. So what's made from Sherwin Williams paint?
posted by Night_owl at 9:55 AM on May 10, 2012


Sherman Hemsley.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:07 AM on May 10, 2012


Even ultra-low not-even-really-registering-on-the-snark-o-meter [citation needed] stuff like [citation needed] is unacceptable [citation needed] now?

Some people are saying that it DOES register as snark to them (1, 2, 3). And if you say things that people have told you they perceive as snark, then you should not be surprised when they perceive it as snark and respond in kind, whether or not you personally think it is a snarky thing to say (4). That's all. Yours is the first use of the word "unacceptable" in here; no one has decreed a moratorium on "[citation needed]." Nor on snark for that matter.

snark snark snark I've used it too many times now it is just a meaningless sound snark
posted by solotoro at 10:17 AM on May 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Lighten the hell up" is also a great thing to say to make people decidedly less lighter.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:22 AM on May 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


It's certainly rarely used by someone who is lighthearted.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:34 AM on May 10, 2012


I would imagine that, yes, there are indeed "a handful of posters" who have, at one time or another, seen a Wikipedia article and not got het up in the slightest. I am one such person.

This is my point. It's all about context and connotation. Within the context of Wikipedia it is indeed innocuous. Which is why I said:

I'm actually surprised you're surprised because I, like the vast majority of people in this thread, have always seen [citation needed] used as shorthand for "this is bullshit, I don't believe you" in discussions online.

When used in the context of online discussions, it's a snarky reference to the Wikipedia usage, and it's virtually always used an insult. Words mean different things depending on the context.

I'm a hugely cynical asshole myself, but it's truly baffling to me that anyone could possibly read so much ill intent into something so utterly innocuous.

Because it's not innocuous. You're a hugely cynical asshole who is missing the connotation the term has taken on in its wider use beyond Wikipedia. This is clear from the reaction of the vast majority of people in this thread: it's widely recognized to be kind of insulting when used in discussions on places like MetaFilter or reddit. If you honestly don't see it that way, now you know that many people do.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:31 AM on May 10, 2012


Just because you infer something doesn't mean it was implied.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:36 AM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


More than this, I want to know where Metafilter stands on the Occam / Ockham divide.

What about the Razer / Razor divide?
posted by nathancaswell at 11:39 AM on May 10, 2012


I don't know if any mods are watching this thread, but you might want to watch Three Blind Mice trolling/derailing this thread.
posted by empath at 11:42 AM on May 10, 2012


Occam used to misplace his Razr and then beg Aristotle to call it so he could find it.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:43 AM on May 10, 2012


I don't know if any mods are watching this thread, but you might want to watch Three Blind Mice trolling/derailing this thread.

This is what flagging is for, or dropping us a note via the contact form, not linking to the comment you don't like in an unrelated thread.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:47 AM on May 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Heh. "Godwinningly problematic."
posted by Burhanistan at 11:50 AM on May 10, 2012


Lighten the hell up.

Nobody calls me Frances.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:59 AM on May 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just because you infer something doesn't mean it was implied.

It is worth noting that this argument is actually supported by precedent. See In Re. It Was Only A Joke, Four-Eyes, Jeez, Don't Take It Personally, 25 Middle School 158, (citing Smelt It v. Dealt It, 128 Recess 45); see also Rubber v. Glue, 435 Playroom 367.
posted by gauche at 12:05 PM on May 10, 2012 [14 favorites]


"Lighten the hell up" is also a great thing to say to make people decidedly less lighter.

It's certainly rarely used by someone who is lighthearted.


That's because of their mellow being harshed.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:11 PM on May 10, 2012


citationneeded.jpg
posted by brain_drain at 12:27 PM on May 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sys Rq: "Just because you infer something doesn't mean it was implied."

Actually, if you can legitimately infer something, it does mean that thing was implied. I think you're confusing implication with intent. One can unintentionally imply something.
posted by koeselitz at 12:34 PM on May 10, 2012


It is worth noting that this argument is actually supported by precedent. See In Re. It Was Only A Joke, Four-Eyes, Jeez, Don't Take It Personally, 25 Middle School 158, (citing Smelt It v. Dealt It, 128 Recess 45); see also Rubber v. Glue, 435 Playroom 367.

No pin cites? What are they teaching in school these days?
posted by monju_bosatsu at 12:40 PM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Devils Rancher: "Nobody calls me Frances."

Or puts you in the corner?
posted by Night_owl at 12:53 PM on May 10, 2012


Actually, if you can legitimately infer something, it does mean that thing was implied.

Sure. My argument, I think you'll find, is that the inference in the case of [citation needed] is rarely legitimate.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:35 PM on May 10, 2012


I use [citation needed] in my own papers frequently. Does it mean I am being snarky at myself? Is there more than one me?
posted by travelwithcats at 1:50 PM on May 10, 2012


Context, people. It's not about the actual [thing] in question.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:53 PM on May 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


'You're a hugely cynical asshole who [...]
posted by Sangermaine at 11:31 AM on May 10 [+]'


Excuse me? [citation needed] = evil but name calling = cool ?
posted by travelwithcats at 1:56 PM on May 10, 2012


I called myself that first, so, yeah, I'm cool with it.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:08 PM on May 10, 2012


Excuse me? [citation needed] = evil but name calling = cool ?

Sys Rq has already spoken to the main point but the secondary point is that MetaTalk is a much different place from MeFi proper. There are things that are allowed in this part of the site that are not at all okay on other parts of the sites.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:20 PM on May 10, 2012


'I called myself that first, so, yeah, I'm cool with it.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:08 PM on May 10 [+] [!]'


You're right s/he even quoted you. I missed it & take it back. Peace.
posted by travelwithcats at 2:20 PM on May 10, 2012


I think you'll find, is that the inference in the case of [citation needed] is rarely legitimate.
Sys Rq

I think this may be the cause of the misunderstanding. It doesn't really matter whether the inference is legitimate, meaning whether what people infer matches up with what the writer intended.

The point I, and others here, are trying to make is that this particular phrase has a negative connotation in this context. When someone uses such a loaded phrase, people are going to see the connotation and make inferences. We don't know what's in your head, and you may have the best of intentions when using it, but if you use wording widely associated with snark people will see snark. That's why it's pointless to keep telling everyone that we're reading too much into it. If almost everyone is reading this meaning into the phrase, you just have to accept that it has this meaning for many people and be more careful in expressing yourself next time so you aren't misunderstood.

I guess the tl;dr is context can change meaning whether you intended it or not, and you can't just ignore it because other people won't.
posted by Sangermaine at 2:39 PM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Because there seems to be some misunderstanding here:

It is nobody's argument in this thread that [citation needed] is evil and must never be written, or that it will summon the Old Ones to destroy us, or that people who write [citation needed] must only do so with the curtains drawn in the privacy of their own homes, or that [citation needed] should be a bannable offense here on MetaFilter, or that its use should be grounds for a timeout, or even that you should feel bad for using it, if you want to use it.

I'm probably the closest to arguing outright against [citation needed] on MetaFilter, but the closest I've come is saying that it causes unnecessary conversational friction which might put one in the neighborhood of starting shit, because it's something which some people will misunderstand and take offense to.

My actual position on this is that we're all grown-ups and can use our words, including [citation needed]. Also, that part of being a words-using grown-up is taking into consideration whether there's a way to use those words without needlessly creating a likelihood of offense when it is possible to avoid it.

What's frustrating to me about the way this thread is going, is that people seem to think that just because it's possible to use [citation needed] without intending it to be rude, that should mean that it is objectively impossible for anybody to ever feel like they are being treated rudely by its use. Like if you tell somebody that their argument is retarded, and what you mean is that their argument has developed more slowly than one would ordinarily expect an argument to develop, and then when they get offended at you it's their problem and not yours. Even if that was all you meant by the term, there are other ways to express your intended meaning that will help you to avoid an unnecessary conflict.

Plausible deniability is a terrible communication strategy.
posted by gauche at 3:02 PM on May 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


jessamyn: "You claimed that this was your way of asking "cleverly and politely" for more information. My assertion is that your request was one but not both of these."

Wait, you asserted this while reprimanding someone for being too snarky?
posted by falameufilho at 3:05 PM on May 10, 2012


You think that's too snarky?
posted by cjorgensen at 4:06 PM on May 10, 2012


I think this is as good a place as any to conclusively decide whether the provided citations need to be in APA, MLA, Turabian or Chicago formats.
posted by double block and bleed at 4:12 PM on May 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


'I think this is as good a place as any to conclusively decide whether the provided citations need to be in APA, MLA, Turabian or Chicago formats.
posted by double block and bleed at 4:12 PM on May 10 [+] [!]'


Let's throw in Harvard into the mix.
posted by travelwithcats at 4:33 PM on May 10, 2012


"Lighten the hell up" is also a great thing to say to make people decidedly less lighter.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:22 PM on May 10


Absolutely. That's what makes it worth saying.
posted by Decani at 4:47 PM on May 10, 2012


By the way, it's "less light". Not "less lighter".
posted by Decani at 4:49 PM on May 10, 2012


I think we should use BibTeX and let the user choose what style they want.
posted by stebulus at 5:04 PM on May 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


*cries*
posted by [citation needed] at 5:44 PM on May 10, 2012 [11 favorites]


'*cries*
posted by [citation needed] at 5:44 PM on May 10 [1 favorite +] [!] '


Can I hug you with my parentheses?
posted by travelwithcats at 5:52 PM on May 10, 2012


Can I hug you with my parentheses?

*sniff* yes

Also, as long as we are discussing site etiquette, I'd like to say that it feels very rude to be excluded from one's own callout thread.

I personally hate [citation needed].

Fine. I wasn't going to invite you to my slumber party anyway.
posted by [citation needed] at 6:21 PM on May 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


*cries*
posted by [citation needed]


Okay, now I feel like an asshole...
posted by gauche at 7:01 PM on May 10, 2012


use BibTeX

You can't possibly imagine how many arugments I've sat through over the best order to compile your latex and bibtex draft. Fucking nerds.
posted by Chekhovian at 7:07 PM on May 10, 2012


Absolutely. That's what makes it worth saying.

Yeah, keep fighting the good fight.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:34 PM on May 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'll add my name to the minority view that would never have even guessed [citation needed] was widely considered mean-spirited. Feels completely neutral, if terse, to me.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:39 PM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Isn't the major problem with [citation needed] that it's an imperative sentence rather than an interrogative (Cite?) or other?

I mean, there's the whole wikipedia/interwebs context as well, but at the heart of it the reason why it sounds neutral inserted in a wiki article (where it's not addressed to anyone directly) but curt and bossy in response to a human is that it is curt and bossy - it's imperative!

Of course, I never did get a proper grammar course, so this may all be [citation needed].
posted by clerestory at 12:05 AM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Isn't the major problem with [citation needed] that it's an imperative sentence rather than an interrogative (Cite?) or other?

Kind of, only it's not properly an imperative sentence because there's no verb to take the imperative mood. It's a sentence fragment that should probably be expanded to something like: "[a supporting] citation [is] needed [here]" which is an ordinary indicative sentence in the passive voice, describing a deficiency in the sentence to which it refers.

Your intuition that it's an imperative sentence is not off-base though: I think that people are objecting to [citation needed] because it implies the kind of power dynamic that an imperative often also implies, a relationship in which you get to tell me what I need to do with my writing. [citation needed] is neutrally used in editing the prose of others, which is a different relationship than talking back and forth on a website. It's not rude because we both already understand and accept that you're going to edit my writing.

My editor has the right to put [citation needed] on my writing. My English teacher had that right. My boss has that right. Nobody on MetaFilter is my English teacher or my editor or my boss, so why do they get to tell me when I have to cite something? We're all just talking here, you know? If you want me to provide more information, you can just ask me as though we're equals.
posted by gauche at 6:33 AM on May 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's a sentence fragment that should probably be expanded to something like: "[a supporting] citation [is] needed [here]"

But with a little effort it can be expanded instead to something like: "[It had been another kick-in-the-gut day; his client was dead and the dame he'd been hired to follow had gone scarce. And now the landlord was breathing down his neck about back rent on the front office. The] citation needed [a drink.]"
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:49 AM on May 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


Cortex, I'd love to read more. Do you have a source for that?
posted by gauche at 7:06 AM on May 11, 2012


Cortex, I googled this assertion and can't find anything. Got any support for that piece of information?
posted by subbes at 7:31 AM on May 11, 2012


arugments I've sat through over the best order to compile your latex and bibtex draft. Fucking nerds.

Isn't that what latexmk is for??
posted by advil at 11:14 AM on May 11, 2012


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