Last Friday, I noticed a question with a title Is this a mistake in the Wikipedia article for ...?, which already was the second question in this style.

  1. Is a Lambertian reflector illuminated by a smaller fraction of the incident radiation when it's tilted?
  2. How does the view-independence of radiosity increase the calculations involved?

While the actual question in these questions are fine, I'd like to discuss the style, on how the question is asked. In my opinion, we should be careful, to not have too many questions asking directly Is this a mistake in the Wikipedia article?, because this site should not become a discussion page for Wikipedia articles and the articles may/will change. Furthermore, the information you gain from the question title is basically non-existent.

Yes, this may sound overly concerned, as there are only two such questions, but to quote from the latter one it starts with

In the style of trichoplax' question, I want to talk about yet another Wikipedia article: Radiosity (computer graphics).

Instead of discussing an article, I think these questions should focus on the content, even if asking about some source/Wikipedia to be wrong. And there is another example question that does this far better:

In this question, also a Wikipedia article is questioned, but it focuses on the content. The question whether the article is wrong or not has an inferior role.

Should we try to convert the two Is this a mistake... questions into the style of the latter one? Or am I actually overly concerned about these questions?

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    $\begingroup$ I asked the original question during private beta as a deliberate test of our scope and our response to such questions. I didn't expect it to be used as a template for further questions, so I'm glad this discussion is in progress. $\endgroup$ Sep 8, 2015 at 22:37
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    $\begingroup$ There's a question on astronomy.SE that questions the validity of a wikipedia quote, while having a meaningful title that does not mention wikipedia. The question includes all the relevant information as a quote block, so any future changes to wikipedia will not invalidate the question. This seems a much better fit for our Q&A site than my original question. $\endgroup$ Sep 8, 2015 at 23:29

1 Answer 1


I'm going to prefix what I say by nothing that I actually agree with Nero. A good question asks a specific question about the content (e.g. "Why is there a cosine factor?" in the case of the Lambertian reflection question). If the questioner believes there to be a mistake in Wikipedia, then by all means bring this up as the source of confusion.

I'm sympathetic to the form of the question, because we do try to encourage smart questions, and that means doing your research first. The very question "is there a mistake in Wikipedia?" is good evidence that the questioner has been doing precisely that.

Having said that, I'd like to broaden the meta-question a bit.

To the extent that SE would like to become a body of questions and answers, whether or not Wikipedia has a mistake is a short-term thing. With any luck, it will get fixed soon, perhaps even as a result of the discussion here.

But what if it's a standard textbook or reference book, like Foley/van Dam/etc, or the OpenGL red book? These are, in a sense, more "permanent" than Wikipedia.


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