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The Battle For Wikipedia's Soul 471

njondet recommends an article at The Economist that sheds light on the identity crisis faced by Wikipedia as it is torn between two alternative futures. "'It can either strive to encompass every aspect of human knowledge, no matter how trivial; or it can adopt a more stringent editorial policy and ban articles on trivial subjects, in the hope that this will enhance its reputation as a trustworthy and credible reference source. These two conflicting visions are at the heart of a bitter struggle inside Wikipedia between 'inclusionists,' who believe that applying strict editorial criteria will dampen contributors' enthusiasm for the project, and 'deletionists' who argue that Wikipedia should be more cautious and selective about its entries."
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The Battle For Wikipedia's Soul

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  • by commisaro ( 1007549 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @03:05AM (#22697790) Homepage
    Personally I get annoyed when I see a comment in a Wikipedia article which was obviously added by someone promoting some product, or some stupid viral video attempt they posted on youtube which was peripherally related to the article in question. I feel that deletion of these kind of trivial things is important to maintain the integrity of Wikipedia. Sure, it could strive to be a record of all human knowledge... but then, some humans have some pretty useless "knowledge" which I don't really want to read about.
    • by iNaya ( 1049686 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @03:11AM (#22697826)
      Just delete the blatant advertising.
      • by SausageOfDoom ( 930370 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @03:15AM (#22697854)
        I agree with that, but I've seen a lot of interesting pages that get deleted just for the sake of "Oh, it's not of interest to a wide enough audience" etc. That's absurd - it's not as if each new page costs a significant amount of money to maintain, and who is in a position to decide that anyway? Besides, look at how many pages on obscure sci-fi characters there are, and then tell me that's of relevance to a wide audience...

        If it's advertising or devoid of information, delete. Otherwise, live and let live - surely more information has to be better.
        • by Carbon016 ( 1129067 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @03:31AM (#22697936)
          The thing is, most new articles began "devoid of information" - or, in WP terminology, a stub. If that stub is sourced, it usually stays, if it's not it goes. Articles don't pop into existence in a full state of being, so the line between delete and keep is much more fluid.
          • by Wooky_linuxer ( 685371 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @07:56AM (#22698960)

            Way too conservative, I'd say. They deleted whole, complete and well researched articles on the Warcraft universe because it wasn't "encyclopedic". Also a lot of Star Wars stuff has been deleted too. Basically deletionists view with bad eyes everything that is fiction related, and dismiss it. Basically anything that is not traditionally accepted as "knowledge" has no place in Wikipedia in their eyes. It is an extremely prejudicial position, not to mention that deletion of articles should be done by consent - but it isn't. Deletionists are like trolls: since destroying content is much easier than creating, they can win over a similar number of inclusionists no matter how hard the latters try.

            Based on the difficulties Wikipedia has had to raise money lately, I'd say most people don't like their stand. Fork wikipedia already, I say, and create an all inclusive wiki, before there is only a handfull of articles left which reference Britannica as their only reliable source. Sigh.

            • by zotz ( 3951 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @08:58AM (#22699394) Homepage Journal
              "Based on the difficulties Wikipedia has had to raise money lately, I'd say most people don't like their stand. Fork wikipedia already, I say, and create an all inclusive wiki, before there is only a handfull of articles left which reference Britannica as their only reliable source. Sigh."

              Yup, there are some interrelated problems from my point of view.

              I think a possible solution would be to leave stuff in, but somehow promote "good" articles to some sort of "official article" status.

              I gave up trying to add to wikipedia a long time ago due to info I added getting deleted. Granted, I never added or tried to add complete essay articles. I added more like bulleted info on areas I knew something about and where I could find no info on the matter on the site.

              My take is that some info is better than no info. And it might inspire someone to add a bit to it and things can grow.

              So I came across Citizendium again the other day and decided to check if I could perhaps add something there. No, they only want complete articles it seems. That is not my bag. They are going to get nothing from me. I would like to contribute, but they are ruling my contributions out before I begin. Which, I guess is better than after I have spent and wasted time trying to contribute.

              ( http://en.citizendium.org/wiki/Main_Page [citizendium.org] )

              I think the dual status idea could help both sites.

              Info can be added and remain even if not up to par. (Not talking seriously inaccurate here, just not complete and finished articles.) It can stay this way as long as it takes. When and if an article reaches a certain level of quality or completeness, it can get some sort of official article status.

              Give viewers a toggle switch to limit views to only official articles should they so choose.

              all the best,

              http://zotzbro.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com]
              • by smallfries ( 601545 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @10:08AM (#22700360) Homepage
                Bingo. One of the original motivations for the project was "Wiki is not paper". Originally they wanted the inclusive h2g2 approach. The current debate is one of image - if it is diluted by lots of borderline articles. Only a wikipedian could think that dodgy articles would somehow damage the "reputation" of the site, but that's a digression.

                As the problem is simply one of image, create two brands, say "Wikipedia Core" and "Wikipedia Fringe". Keep everything, but only elevate articles into the core on some sort of vote / consensus. Keeps both sides happy. The inclusionists get every bit of trivia every recorded, and the deletionists get their pristine image of a "pure" encyclopaedia. Given that the project was initiated as a response to the problems of paper-based encyclopaedias I'm surprised nobody within the project has suggested this.

                Seems vaguely reminiscent of slashdot around the time they introduced moderation. Reading the Fringe could someday be seen as browsing at -1.
              • I have made three minor contributions to Wikipedia. The first rewrote one paragraph for clarity and added a paragraph. The third replaced incorrect information.

                My second contribution added three-sentences as the 27th bullet of a list. The entire section was deleted 32 minutes later with the comment "Removed trivia section". The "User Contributions" list of the "Administrator" is almost completely filled with entries like "Reverted edit by ???" and a few "Removed ???". Administrators are a group of trus
            • The problem is far too much conservatism on Wikipedia in general, but that it is inconsistent. You take the article on "Jimmy Wales". It says he was born August 7, 1966, but where is the citation? Stuff like that gets by while other uncited stuff is deleted because the Wikipedia trolls^H^H^H^H editors are on a deletion binge.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by freeweed ( 309734 )
              Basically deletionists view with bad eyes everything that is fiction related, and dismiss it.

              Which is really a very silly position to take.

              *troll mode on* What's next, are they going to delete all pages on the Christian Bible? *troll mode off*

              Less trolly, I know for a fact that Britannica has entries on Greek Mythology, and Shakespearian characters.

              Is fiction only acceptable after a certain period of time?
              • by superbus1929 ( 1069292 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @12:16PM (#22702612) Homepage
                From TFA:


                Consider the fictional characters of Pokémon, the Japanese game franchise with a huge global following, for example. Almost 500 of them have biographies on the English-language version of Wikipedia (the largest edition, with over 2m entries), with a level of detail that many real characters would envy. But search for biographies of the leaders of the Solidarity movement in Poland, and you would find no more than a dozen--and they are rather poorly edited.


                Basically, it means that the Pokemon franchise has a lot more fervent editors than the Solidarity movement in Poland. Whereas not many people have enough information to speak with authority about the latter, there are a LOT of people that have knowledge of every minute detail of the former. And considering the subjects in question, said people have a LOT of time on their hands.

                To me, I think it's less a problem with Wikipedia and more a problem with society, and really, the goal of the Deletionists is laudible, but Wikipedia will never, ever, ever EVER be respected within the academic community, just due to the fact that anyone can edit it; any respected teacher will automatically shun a Wikipedia reference, though not necessarilly the good articles that could be linked from it. But just the example above from TFA, the only articles that will have proper accountability are the ones that a lot of people know about... so for the best information on Lost, Pokemon and Britney Spears, Wikipedia's got it!
                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by epine ( 68316 )
                  I missed your point concerning what is laudable about the Deletionists. Is is laudable in the same way that pretending not to know your "hick" younger sister is laudable if it preserves your social standing within your own age group?

                  While the Economist article is not bad, The Charms of Wikipedia [nybooks.com], a recent article by Nicholson Baker [wikipedia.org], of "Vox" fame, is the better of the two.

                  In the fall of 2006, groups of editors went around getting rid of articles on webcomic artists--some of the most original and articulate people on the Net. They would tag an article as nonnotable and then crowd in to vote it down. One openly called it the "web-comic articles purge of 2006." A victim, Trev-Mun, author of a comic called Ragnarok Wisdom, wrote: "I got the impression that they enjoyed this kind of thing as a kid enjoys kicking down others' sand castles." Another artist, Howard Tayler, said: "'Notability purges' are being executed throughout Wikipedia by empire-building, wannabe tin-pot dictators masquerading as humble editors." Rob Balder, author of a webcomic called PartiallyClips, likened the organized deleters to book burners, and he said: "Your words are polite, yeah, but your actions are obscene. Every word in every valid article you've destroyed should be converted to profanity and screamed in your face."

                  As the deletions and ill-will spread in 2007--deletions not just of webcomics but of companies, urban places, Web sites, lists, people, categories, and ideas--all deemed to be trivial, "NN" (nonnotable), "stubby," undersourced, or otherwise unencyclopedic--Andrew Lih, one of the most thoughtful observers of Wikipedia's history, told a Canadian reporter: "The preference now is for excising, deleting, restricting information rather than letting it sit there and grow." ...

                  Apologies to Mr Baker about quoting slightly more than my personal standard concerning fair use, but it couldn't be more pertinent to t

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Just Some Guy ( 3352 )

              Deletionists are like trolls: since destroying content is much easier than creating, they can win over a similar number of inclusionists no matter how hard the latters try.

              Yep. Some basement-dweller ruined Wikipedia for me. I spent (a little too much) time fleshing out a fictional article only to see it deleted because it didn't meet that kid's purity ideal. The article wasn't hurting anyone. Its presence didn't degrade the rest of the content - particularly not when you consider the lists of Pokemon and anime characters that are left alone - but one kid on a power trip got off on ruining it.

              Nuts to Wikipedia. Until they get things under control, I want nothing to do

            • by jollyreaper ( 513215 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @10:33AM (#22700874)
              Agreed, the deletionists really do seem like griefers or trolls.

              What I like about Wikipeida is I can find info about virtually anything on there, from obscure books to general scientific knowledge. The deletionist jihad against fictional information is exactly the same as if doctrinaire librarians went through the library with torches burning all novels because fiction lacks notability. Says who? And again, it costs a library money and space to store books but new articles in Wiki cost damn near zero.

              It seems like the smartest way to handle this is to use a classification system on the articles, that way if you only want stodgy conservative wiki, you set your filter and there you go. You'd never stray into the wider wiki unless by clicking a link from a stody article.

              I just find the whole unilateral nature of the deletionist thing so arrogant. It's no different from the various religions when they get into sectarian pigfights and one side starts burning the books (and sometimes members) of the other side.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Maintaining those pages does cost... if not money... then the time of good editors who have to police it for idiocy/vandalism/neutral point of view. Effective editors put in a lot of time and effort. Effective trolls and vandals can do their thing with little effort at all. Wikipedia burns through good editors like they are an infinitely renewable resource.

        • by cabalamat3 ( 1089523 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @06:00AM (#22698456) Homepage

          I've seen a lot of interesting pages that get deleted just for the sake of "Oh, it's not of interest to a wide enough audience" etc.

          Me too, which is why I've started includipedia [includipedia.com], an inclusionist fork of Wikipedia.

          That's absurd - it's not as if each new page costs a significant amount of money to maintain

          My thoughts exactly

          • by nahdude812 ( 88157 ) * on Monday March 10, 2008 @08:44AM (#22699274) Homepage
            I'd recommend you start your project with one of Wikipedia's database dumps, then go through and start undeleting articles. Your homepage can even consist of links to good articles deleted from Wikipedia which were recreated in Includipedia. You can watch Wikipedia's AFD boards and contact the users defending their articles, suggesting that they recreate them on Includipedia and link to Includipedia in the footnotes of relevant articles from Wikipedia.

            If you play it right, you might possibly even give Wikipedia deletionists something to recommend to those people disillusioned with their favorite articles getting deleted.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Khalid ( 31037 )
          The problem if you don't delete some pages is :

          * Wikipedia will be quickly filled with balantant advertising, wanabe celebrities and marginal and hardly proved theories (this is alas sadly often already the case)
          * Marginal entries are rarely visted, so they don't evelove that much (practice show that the most intersting pages are those which are often visited). Marigina entries are also at risk of being quiclky filled with spam and advertisement, in one word they don't get enough eyballs to be be correctly
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by mdwh2 ( 535323 )
            The problem if you don't delete some pages is :

            Well there are certainly other valid reasons for deleting pages, such as lack of references, unverifiable, original research, advertising. I presume the debate here is whether an article that has verifiable references should be deleted purely on the grounds of not notable?

            Of course, there is the possibility that many people here complaining "my article was deleted" are actually referring to articles deleted on grounds other than non-notable.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by STrinity ( 723872 )

          Besides, look at how many pages on obscure sci-fi characters there are, and then tell me that's of relevance to a wide audience...
          What's annoying is that people who write those articles do so as though the characters are real people, which often obscures information like what episode they first appeared in, or inconsistencies in their backstory. But you'd have to rewrite the article from the ground up to fix it.
        • by ucblockhead ( 63650 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @12:54PM (#22703320) Homepage Journal
          Yeah, Wikipedia was dead to me the day I went looking for information and discovered that someone had deleted the page because it wasn't important enough.
    • by BadAnalogyGuy ( 945258 ) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Monday March 10, 2008 @03:24AM (#22697896)
      A few years ago, no one imagined that we'd have accomplished what we did here on Wikipedia. Compared to the entrenched encyclopedia companies, we were far behind, and we always knew the climb would be steep. But in record numbers of entries, we came out and wrote so many articles. And with these articles and discussions, it was made clear that at this moment - in this fight for intellectual freedom - there is something happening on the Web.

      There is something happening when men and men pretending to be women in Des Moines and Davenport; in Lebanon and Concord come out of their basements to write and rewrite and edit and correct because they believe in what this medium can be. We can be the new majority who can lead this world out of a long intellectual property darkness - Communists, Free-marketeers, and Furries who are tired of the high prices of Britannica and the inadequacy of Funk and Wagnalls; who know that we can disagree without being disagreeable; who understand that if we mobilize our voices to challenge the money and influence that's stood in our way to knowledge and challenge ourselves to reach for something better, there's no obscure minutia we can't illuminate - no minor character we cannot flesh out.

      Our new Web encyclopedia can end the outrage of unaffordable, unavailable encyclopedias in our time. We can bring doctors and patients; workers and businesses, Democrats and Republicans together for discussion and consultation; and we can tell the big name encyclopedia players that while they'll get a seat at the table, they don't get to buy every chair. Not this time. Not now.

      All of the inclusionists and the deletists on this site share these goals. All have good ideas. And all are valuable contributors who serve this website honorably. But the reason Wikipedia has always been different is because it's not just about what I or they will do, it's also about what you, the people who love knowledge, can do to increase it.

      We have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics who will only grow louder and more dissonant in the years to come. We've been asked to pause for a reality check. We've been warned against offering the people of the world false hope and bad information. But in the unlikely story that is Wikipedia, there has never been anything false about participation. For when we have faced down increasing attacks on our credibility; when we've been told that we're not a valid source, or that we shouldn't even try to be the be all and end all, or that we can't, thousands upon thousands of Wikipedia authors have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a free and liberated people.

      Yes we can.
      • by traveller.ct ( 958378 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @03:52AM (#22698016)
        I don't see the reason why Wikipedia cannot document every trivial human knowledge and still be a trustworthy and credible reference source.
        • by Carbon016 ( 1129067 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @05:52AM (#22698408)
          To be semantic, every trivial piece of human knowledge includes the contents of my room at 2:47 AM. There's no real need for that information.

          To be fair, the problem is with reliability. If I add something that I heard once (in the 'sum of human knowledge'), there's no way for someone to use that for research or even to check it back to someone reliable to make sure I didn't make the whole bloody thing up. Unless I can go to the library, grab the book and say "oh, wow, this is exactly like Wiki said it was! oh and look, hundreds of pages going into depth on the same topic! now I'm off to write a paper!", the information exists in a Schrodinger-like state of verifiable purgatory where citing it is a huge risk if I don't know anything about it in the first place.

          There's really a reason that if you go grab a book off a shelf it has a giant bibliography full of references to other books. It's an implicit certification of accuracy.
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by AeroIllini ( 726211 )

            To be semantic, every trivial piece of human knowledge includes the contents of my room at 2:47 AM. There's no real need for that information.
            ...unless you've lost your keys.
      • by nevali ( 942731 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @04:51AM (#22698238) Homepage
        I'd agree with that; just because something's "trivial" doesn't mean it's not credible. The compromise is to allow articles on anything, but to hold all articles to the same editorial standards.

        I do think that Wikipedia shouldn't be considered a valid source for reference material in itself, but I don't think any other encyclopaedia should be either; on the upside, the last copy of the EB that I saw didn't have a list of external authoritative sources attached to each article.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I gave up contributing to Wikipedia as my early articles were all deleted.

        I'd started writing up a history of our local music scene so naturally I started at the beginning with a couple of obscure bands. Of course some of these people went on to achieve worldwide acclaim (a couple as actors) and I would have chronicled the whole thing.

        Sadly the first four articles I wrote were deleted the next day as they were apparently not "noteworthy". Guess this folk knowledge will have to remain in the surviving copi
    • by andy314159pi ( 787550 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @05:08AM (#22698278) Journal

      Personally I get annoyed when I see a comment in a Wikipedia article which was obviously added by someone promoting some product, or some stupid viral video attempt they posted on youtube which was peripherally related to the article in question. I feel that deletion of these kind of trivial things is important to maintain the integrity of Wikipedia.
      Right, but this has nothing to do with most of the articles that are deleted from Wikipedia.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Here's a classic example: the band The Protomen. They're very well known for a non-mainstream band, but ask geeks anywhere and they know who they are. http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Special:Log/delete&page=The_Protomen [wikipedia.org] Yet, The Protomen article keeps being deleted because of one editor/admin who doesn't know who they are, then they set their wikibots who also magically have admin status to go around reverting edits and deleting random pages they don't like. This is a classic example of let
      • by WWWWolf ( 2428 ) <wwwwolf@iki.fi> on Monday March 10, 2008 @04:36PM (#22707490) Homepage

        Here's a classic example: the band The Protomen. They're very well known for a non-mainstream band, but ask geeks anywhere and they know who they are. http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Special:Log/delete&page=The_Protomen [wikipedia.org] Yet, The Protomen article keeps being deleted because of one editor/admin who doesn't know who they are, then they set their wikibots who also magically have admin status to go around reverting edits and deleting random pages they don't like. This is a classic example of letting a few narcissistic individuals with an agenda to push have total power over information and content.

        The problem is simple: Instead of figuring out what was wrong with the article, you conclude that it's the admins' fault that the article was deleted. There's no massive conspiracy; the articles just should have bare minimum of facts that tell us why we should care.

        Let's hit Special:Undelete and see what was in the most recent version. Hmm, "American progressive rock band from Nashville, Tennessee who create music based on the popular video game series from the late 1980s, Mega Man. They have released one (self-titled) album as of yet and are notable for converting the storyline of the Mega Man video game series into a rock opera." List of members. Three external links (Myspace, official home page, interview with The Escapist).

        Now, please read your comment again. Then read the article contents, quoted in full above. You may notice it misses one thing - specifically, the claim that they're "very well known" or that any geeks know them. Instead, the article comes across as "We've made one CD. And we have a MySpace." There's bazillion of garage bands that can make the same claim. I'm not a genius of persuasive writing, but I don't think the article quite communicates the greatness of the band (through neutral claims, of course).

        Now, let's compare this to what the criteria [wikipedia.org] say.

        • Subject of multiple non-trivial published works? The only work listed in the article was The Escapist article. Are they covered by other magazines? If they are, as you say, "very well known for a non-mainstream band", where are the news articles? If they can get a relatively well known game website to interview them, there's probably a bunch of game/indie music websites just waiting to write articles about them. Bring them on! If you can find tons of independent coverage, that's the single best defence against having your new article not getting deleted on sight.
        • Albums: Simply saying the band has made an album isn't enough - who published it? Everyone can make a self-published album these days. Besides, one album isn't enough - unless it got on charts somewhere! Is there a second album? Did they go on national tour? You know, knowing about things like this would make it much easier to know why anyone would care about the band.

        The article has now been protected against deletion. There are old deletion debates from June 2006 [wikipedia.org] and yet again from June 2006 [wikipedia.org]. Note that our notability criteria have changed a bit since those days and these days and these days the verifiable sources are among the most revered of tools you can use to prove the notability. So, if the band really meets the notability criteria [wikipedia.org], please do bring it up on Deletion review [wikipedia.org].

        And I do mean it. Please do bring it up on Deletion review instead of spinning fanciful conspiracy theories about the Admini

  • I found it, it's here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soul [wikipedia.org].

    No, but seriously...this is an issue that's really not all that easy to decide. Those in control (the admins) have the right to remove "insignificant" entries, but they boast a wide set of rules about non-censorship and such. Overall, the admins have the say, and can change the rules or strictly enforce them (remember the Muhammad article issue?). Now, whether they think it'll affect readership or whether they carefully calculate how it will affec
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mmyrfield ( 1157811 )
      Don't misunderstand the playing field; "the admins" (or as some might say the evil cabal) do not have the right to remove insignificant articles, nor can they change the rules/strictly enforce them to their whims. Wikipedia operates on the idea of reaching a consensus among good-faith users who understand the current mechanisms.

      What frustrates me lately is the attitude of a large number of editors who follow the mantra "Either facts are sourced or I delete them on sight, and if an article has fewer than x
  • by PO1FL ( 1074923 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @03:08AM (#22697808) Homepage
    Because I really like the trivial and sometimes weird articles on Wikipedia. I like the articles that probably would not make it into any other resource.
    • by Znork ( 31774 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @03:23AM (#22697894)
      I have to agree. I often explicitly search wikipedia for reasonably structured information on neo-culture subjects like characters in TV shows, books or cartoons.

      Much of wikipedias usefulness stems from it's inclusivity; if any given subject had to have a related doctorate, we'd have to wait 50 years until academia decides to catch up.
    • Agreed (Score:3, Insightful)

      by HalAtWork ( 926717 )
      Wikipedia is an encyclopedic resource for everything including our culture and all of the products we produce, all of the creatures that inhabit the earth, their histories, our histories, important events, important people, important theories, pop-culture phenomena that provides important context to all of these events, etc. It's an encyclopedia of everything we can think of, all cross-linked. If we as humans could dump all of the reference we have in our minds into a searchable resource, I guess wikipedi
  • by addie ( 470476 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @03:09AM (#22697812)
    That which may be trivial today could end up being very important in the long run. Vincent Van Gogh only sold one single painting in his lifetime, as he simply wasn't very popular. If we leave out articles on certain people or events based on our perceptions of their current importance, that information could be lost forever. Let history judge what is or is not trivial, we're just too biased to do so in the present. I'm a fan for inclusion, all the way.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Artuir ( 1226648 )
      I agree. What better way to leave evidence of Goatse for future generations?
    • by xtracto ( 837672 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @03:38AM (#22697972) Journal
      Not only that, what could be "trivial" for one people is really informative for others. There is some knowledge that does not "belong" to other sections in an article. This is knowledge that may not be large enough to fill a paragraph but is still information. Even if this information is that X character in a movie was based on Y or took some lines from Z. To some people that might look trivial but other people might find it useful for a research of say, the influence of "oldies" 1990s movies in the new 2050 movies.

      Moreover, I do not find "trivial" and "trustworthy" as conflicting approaches. You can have a very trustworthy place with Trivia (like your typical neighbour woman who knows about *everything* that happens in the neighbourhood, you know her information is trustworthy, although some of it may be trivial). I think what they should be aiming for is to improve the quality of those articles that seem "trivial". Yes, even the thousand of Anime/Manga articles, they are not tririval, they are information.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by vux984 ( 928602 )
        Not only that, what could be "trivial" for one people is really informative for others.

        True, but surely there is a limit. Are the contents of my lunch today 'informative'. Sure if I happen to become a celebrity on the scale of Lincoln someday, scholars will delight in knowing I had 'Kraft dinner' for lunch because my 4 year old wanted it more than anything... and that will somehow reveal to them something profound... but it doesn't belong in an encyclopedia today. Hell, even a page about me or even my entir
  • Deletionists (Score:5, Insightful)

    by apankrat ( 314147 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @03:11AM (#22697824) Homepage
    I guess I fall under the "inclusionist" type as I wholeheartedly believe that
    nuking the content in a favor of a formal compliance with a policy du jour
    is a wrong thing to do. Deleting is easy, creating is hard. And re-creating
    is nearly impossible. If you tried resurrecting a deleted Wikipedia article,
    you know what I mean.
    • Re:Deletionists (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Dachannien ( 617929 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @04:04AM (#22698068)
      Verifiable reliable secondary sourcing isn't exactly a "policy du jour" on Wikipedia, and it's generally the best way to determine the notability of a subject. Easily the most frequently deleted types of articles are spam/advocacy articles, self-bios, and articles about garage bands. In all three cases, the articles are often placed in hopes of increasing the fame of the author/subject, and in all three cases, sources are rarely if ever provided, hence the articles' eventual removal.

      If you have an article topic that is well-researched and well-sourced, by which I mean the subject has received attention in reliable mainstream media, then write the article and cite the sources. But just remember that you don't own that article, and it will be ultimately judged by the Wikipedia community to determine its suitability for inclusion (or modification, merging with another article, etc.).

      • Re:Deletionists (Score:5, Insightful)

        by unfunk ( 804468 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @06:34AM (#22698604) Journal

        If you have an article topic that is well-researched and well-sourced, by which I mean the subject has received attention in reliable mainstream media, then write the article and cite the sources.
        ...and therein lies the problem. We have well fleshed-out articles on interesting things like SkyOS [wikipedia.org] up for deletion because it hasn't had "mainstream media" attention, while there's a squintillion articles on completely inane things whose articles comprise no more than a couple of sentences, which can be found simply by hitting the "Random Article" link a couple of times.

        Here, I'll find some for you:

        Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan

        Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan (Arabic: ) is a member of the royal family of Abu Dhabi and the current foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates. He received his position in the cabinet reshuffle in February 2006, and was previously the information and culture minister.

        No offense to the guy, of course - just puling an example of a lame Wikipedia article...
        Even better is this one:

        Pakistan at the 1964 Summer Olympics

        Pakistan competed at the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

        ...very informative...

        It's not as though Wikipedia is starved of bandwidth or storage space, so why can't it be a repository of all sorts of nuggets of informative gold? Why do things need to be reported in "mainstream media" to be worthy of inclusion? Slashdot's not mentioned on the nightly news or in newspapers, or even in many magazines, so does this mean it should be deprived of an entry in Wikipedia? Did Wikipedia have an article on itself in its early days, before it received "mainstram media" attention?
  • Very, very old news (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Raul654 ( 453029 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @03:11AM (#22697828) Homepage
    This is being reported as if it's a new thing. It's not. Far from it. I've been at Wikipedia for nearly 5 years now, and this debate has been raging as long as I've been there. In 2003/2004, it centered around high schoolers. By 2005/2006, it was individual Pokemon and TV shows. Now it's individual TV episodes and characters thereof.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Rich0 ( 548339 )
      What about trivial non-fictional information?

      Suppose I wanted to write up an article on some chemical intermediate and the various methods by which it is produced and used industrially, and other useful information. The article might not be of interest outside the chemical industry, but it would be informative to anybody who happens to encounter the topic and wants to quickly learn about it.

      Would that be considered non-notable and fodder for deletion?

      I can certainly see the reason for debate when regarding
  • by babbling ( 952366 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @03:14AM (#22697834)
    I can understand why someone might want lots of strange and "trivial" articles on Wikipedia. They want it to be a resource that they can always turn to for pretty much any and all information.

    Why do the deletionists care if there are trivial articles on there? If they consider an article trivial, isn't it fairly easy to just not read it and not contribute to it?

    Do they base their stance purely on how "trivial articles" may affect Wikipedia's public image, or do they have some sort of technical concern about having too many articles?
    • by Titoxd ( 1116095 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @03:26AM (#22697906) Homepage
      More of a social concern about having too many articles; monitoring articles takes time, and having articles on topics that they consider worthless, but that still need to be monitored, causes the amount of eyes watching each article to decrease. This allows, in theory, more vandalism to sneak by, and decreases the average quality of Wikipedia articles, or so I've heard

      You may want to read the Deletionism page on Metawiki [wikimedia.org] for more info.
      • by Mex ( 191941 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @04:53AM (#22698246)
        It's the difference between having no entry for Planet Earth, and having one that says "Mostly Harmless".
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by plnrtrvlr ( 557800 )
        If that is their only concern, then the simplest solution is to divide Wikipedia up into "Knowledge and Culture" and "Subculture and Trivia" sections and then give the job of policing the areas back to those who have the respective opinions. "Inclusionists" can monitor the sections they want included and "deletionists" have the stuff they don't feel important under it's own heading where they can ignore it.
      • by gsslay ( 807818 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @06:27AM (#22698572)
        Exactly. Many of the worse pages on Wikipedia have been edited by a handful of people and haven't been even been glanced at by someone who knows what their doing (e.g. can spell) or aren't horribly biased. Fan articles are particularly bad, as they tend to be written by uncritical fanatics who are more interested in gushing about their chosen subject and conveying everything they know about it and their interpretation of things. Notability, accuracy, neutrality and references barely get a look in. You want bad articles? Try browsing some of the professional wrestling or anime articles. They'd make you weep.

        Each and every one of those pages are the kind of dross that gives Wikipedia a bad name for being an amateur collection of random opinions. They are the noise that is in danger of drowning out the knowledge and there simply isn't the people to tidy them. Far better they were removed.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by gsslay ( 807818 )

          who knows what their doing (e.g. can spell)
          Oh bitter irony, you are a heartless mistress who makes fools of us all.

          "who knows what they're doing (e.g. can spell)"

          (Just saying it before anyone else does.)

    • by Carbon016 ( 1129067 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @03:26AM (#22697908)
      The justification is as follows: an encyclopedia is a generalized collection of information for easy brushing up on a subject or to begin research. It's a giant summary of what other people say. Because WP decided to use the encyclopedia template, all those weird trivial articles that nobody reports on in media deserve the hatchet. Had it not and been a collection of everything, they would have a home, but then you have to deal with a bunch of people creating articles on their friends discussing how gay they are with no reason for deletion (similar to Everything2).

      It's not based on technical reasons, nor on "trivia" - if Bob's Local Cheese Statue was discussed in the newspaper a bunch of times, and that's cited in the article, that article will definitely stay. It's more based on "can you back this up using a real source, not yourself", to both preserve reliability and make sure that if someone wants to use it for research they can figure out who said what.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by PO1FL ( 1074923 )
        I think the "discussed somewhere else and available online (for a link)" standard is a good metric for deciding what stays and what goes. (Hypothetical) examples: #1 Small restaurant starts up. One customer enjoys his/her meal and writes an article on Wikipedia. Under this metric (and by common sense) that article should be deleted, unless the restaraunt is in some other way notable,but for the sake of argument it's not. #2 Small restaurant starts up. A review of this restaurant is written in the local pap
    • by ultranova ( 717540 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @04:02AM (#22698058)

      Do they base their stance purely on how "trivial articles" may affect Wikipedia's public image, or do they have some sort of technical concern about having too many articles?

      I suspect that the main reason is a lot less noble: "power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely, and petty power corrupts completely out of proportion to the actual power." Destroying someone else's work is using power, and that is a rewarding activity in itself, so people with nothing to contribute do so to make themselves feel important.

      That's why I've made a principal decision to never again contribute to Wikipedia: doing so would mean engaging in petty power games with deletionists and other control freaks, so why bother ?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        I don't know why the parent was modded troll. I used to be very active on Wikipedia, but gave up after getting one two many things I'd worked hard on deleted by power-tripping admins.


    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Mike1024 ( 184871 )
      Why do the deletionists care if there are trivial articles on there? If they consider an article trivial, isn't it fairly easy to just not read it and not contribute to it?

      The most reasonable justification I've heard is "the criteria for notability is verifiability". That is, wikipedia doesn't need unverifiable articles because thanks to vandalism, there's a good chance they aren't true.

      Therefore, the only articles wikipedia wants are those that can be verified. They also prefer verification come from someo
  • Isn't wikipedia designed to cover the things that a normal encyclopedia may be unable to cover?
  • by TrekkieGod ( 627867 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @03:16AM (#22697858) Homepage Journal

    What makes wikipedia worthwhile is the amount of information available. Wikipedia credibility isn't in peril because it contains TNG episode descriptions (and it does). It's in peril because it contains inaccurate information. The one time I corrected wikipedia was the removal of some disguised claims to perpetual motion. The information had a few web page citations backing it up. I followed the links, because what they were saying intrigued me, and ended up at some crackpot's website. So I deleted that information. If it had been wrong on star trek related information, it would still be unreliable. If it didn't have any star trek information, it would still be providing wrong information on that topic.

    What that tells you is that the current system works. Any encyclopedia works like that. I wasn't allowed to cite hard-copy encyclopedias when I was doing projects in school, they were meant as a starting point to gather information. Same thing I do with wikipedia. When I want quick information, I go there (and I go there quite often). If I need the extra reliability, I may look at the papers cited at wikipedia and decide if they're good reputable starting points, or go elsewhere.

    Wikipedia is tremendously useful if you use it as an encyclopedia is meant to be used. A repository of tons of information for quick reference. If editors continue doing a good job requiring citation sources and checking for accuracy of information on topics they understand, it will continue to grow. If editors start removing information because "it's not worthy" I'm going to have to start going elsewhere for that information and they've accomplished nothing to increase their reputation.

  • by l2718 ( 514756 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @03:17AM (#22697860)
    In reality, Wikipedia is too large to have cohesive policy of this type. Rather, it is very fragmented with a large number of groups and projects, each with its own standards of quality, reliability and notability. In Mathematics, Wikipedia has become the de-facto first reference for definitions. I wouldn't use it for research results, but if you need to know what a contravariant functor [wikipedia.org] is, or the basic construction of Hausdorff measure [wikipedia.org] then starting at Wikipedia works. The same holds for some fields of theoretical physics. And this is perfectly compatible with there being large swathes of the encyclopedia devoted to debating the special power sof minor characters in little-known Japanese manga, written using in-universe language. The point is that most users can easily tell the difference between the two kinds of pages.
  • by HomerJ ( 11142 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @03:17AM (#22697868)
    Just because some random people determine something is "trival" doesn't mean it is.

    There are a lot of things that are marked as such, that I don't think they are. Episode lists of TV shows for instance. Watch a show, want to know what season it was in, Wikipedia can tell you...at least for now.

    I've always considered that the whole IDEA of Wikipedia. A site with every meaningful and meaningless piece of information you want. You need to know the particulars of the 1980 Presidential election? Wikipedia. You want to know the in-depth backstory of G-Man in Half Life? Wikipedia will tell you that as well. The latter may be called trivial by some, but I'm sure a lot of people have read it as well.

    The fact that there ARE all these types of pages mean two things. People want to write them, and people want to read them. If wikipedia starts to delete them, there will be another wiki that will host them.
  • Have a "core" set of articles which is held to very high standards, and an "extended" set which is less stringent and which allows additional information on core content as well as completely unrelated non-core.

    Isn't the whole point of doing this collaboratively allowing people to experiment, and breaking the bonds of the traditional encyclopedia?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Chrisq ( 894406 )
      This would be an excellent idea. There could be a number of ways on rating articles, from the number of times accessed (likely to have a number of false positives in amusing trivia and miss esoteric encyclopaedic articles) or a "dig" style thumbs up/thumbs down rating for encyclopaedic relevance. Perhaps the best would be a 1 to 5 rating from "trivia" to "core encyclopaedic contents". This would allow changes as history progresses, e.g. cold fusion would have started somewhere in the middle and tailed out t
  • by Carbon016 ( 1129067 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @03:21AM (#22697886)
    The solution to this mess would seem to be to trash everything unsourced or transwiki it to a place that doesn't care about reliability, but that's not going to happen. Wikipedia sets down all these rules and then tries to weasel out of them in any way it can anymore - anyone (esp. an admin) that attempted to actually follow its rules to the letter (delete unsourced content on sight) would get blocked within a couple hours. If you're an established editor and you add something unsourced, it's fine, but if you're an IP it gets rolled back. The whole thing is silly and I don't edit there anymore.

    In addition, nobody really understands the point of an encyclopedia anymore. It's to condense and collect information into a generalized mess so that someone can come along, find a snippet or less deep version of the info they need, then follow the source. The "OH MY GOD IT'S THE WEB WE CAN ADD ANYTHING WE WANT LET'S MAKE A BUNCH OF TV SHOWS" mentality snuck in pretty fast. Wikipedia has put way more emphasis on "wiki" and thrown the "pedia" part out the window years before, and *surprise* it's an issue!
  • by Thanshin ( 1188877 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @03:28AM (#22697920)
    And if so, why?

    I'm all for including every little piece of info as long as it's possible to organize, and right now it seems to stay quite stable having all kinds of "minimalistic" pieces of data.

    However, what called my attention upon entering the commentaries is that most people here were "inclusionists". Is it the aversion to censorship? The interest in unpopular areas of human knowledge?

    I think a poll about this in Slashdot would be interesting.
  • by Splab ( 574204 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @03:28AM (#22697926)
    ranks before handling content. As it is now there are strong evidence of bias among editors, causing deletion of useful information - and you can't restore deleted articles, information is lost forever.

    One example is the YATE (telephony) article. It got deleted by an editor who is tied with Asterix. On top of that, the user original writing the article had a copy on his own journal - that also got deleted. Now the article might have been substandard, but instead of letting problems being fixed it got downright deleted by someone with a very biased opinion.

    I for one have stopped using wikipedia.
    • by FireFury03 ( 653718 ) <slashdotNO@SPAMnexusuk.org> on Monday March 10, 2008 @07:06AM (#22698746) Homepage
      One example is the YATE (telephony) article. It got deleted by an editor who is tied with Asterix.

      The OpenPBX article went the same way (there was a lot of evidence that the deleting editor was tied to Asterisk and was attempting to delete a lot of articles about Asterisk alternatives). It's one of the reasons I've given up editing Wikipedia - I've seen far too many genuinely useful articles be deleted, even though they cite external sources.

      I'm convinced the AfD process is utterly flawed because most of the people who take part are either deletionists (who will vote "delete" no matter what), or already connected with the article (who will defend it and vote "keep", and be immediately discredited by the deletionists as being biassed). Unbiassed people just don't have an interest in taking part in this sort of petty politics, so if an article is entered into the AfD process the chances are it's going to get deleted.
      • by Carewolf ( 581105 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @08:19AM (#22699092) Homepage
        OpenSER, OpenPBX, Yate and several others was all proposed for deletion by the same guy, got voted ''delete'' by same group of people and deleted even though the majority of comments was ''keep''. FreeSwitch somehow survived after an extremely heated debated and interference, but the other decisions was never reverted.

        A pretty nasty case of either deletionitis or a small Asteriks conspiracy.
  • by unitron ( 5733 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @03:37AM (#22697958) Homepage Journal
    It doesn't matter how many articles Wikipedia has or what subjects are or are not covered nearly as much as whether what they say is true. If all nine million articles are full of mistakes and/or lies, no one is going to say "Yeah, but they're still a trustworthy and credible reference source because all of the articles are about serious subjects."
  • by Hellad ( 691810 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @03:38AM (#22697966)
    The whole point of Wikipedia is that it has something about everything. If I want to know about a random 1980's toy, I go to wikipedia. The lack of respect for wikipedia isn't because of the inclusion of other things. It is the distrust for the entry writers. If you get rid of pop culture entries, that problem still exists. I am an editor for my school's law review. Law academia differs from most departments because everything is student edited rather than peer reviewed. Even in this case, students are unwilling to allow wikipedia sources. Either Wikipedia will change who can make entries or people will finally accept the wikipedia paradigm before it will be a valid source. This is a shame, because often academics are slow in figuring out what the hell they are talking about. This is most obvious when sources are needed for technical/scientific information. The geeks who write the updates know what they are talking about much quicker than Dr. English Phd who can't even use Word...
  • by Gldm ( 600518 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @03:50AM (#22698006)
    If only there was some way to include the "trivial" information yet not see it unless specifically looking for it. Maybe if there was some sort of ranking system that could be used to filter what information was deemed trivial, like a score or rating system. Possibly even some kind of description tags to aid in this, like "insightful", "funny", "interesting", or "troll". Then those who were not interested in the trivial information could browse at a higher filter level, and those who were searching for it could still find it when desired.

    Nah that would never work.
  • Ignore the Trivial (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @04:26AM (#22698166) Homepage Journal
    Who cares whether there are articles about trivial subjects in the Wikipedia. If you're not interested, ignore it. For most people, most of the entries are too trivial not to ignore.

    As for trivial content inside a less trivial article, that's what the community is for: removing article info that's not good enough to include. Whether because it's trivial, uncited, biased, or just wrong, anyone who isn't barred can clean it up.

    If Wikipedia wants to do both, and encourage trivia entered by people who understand its status to be kept out of the main article, it should just add a "trivia" section that's hidden by default, perhaps linked at a separate page. Then people adding trivia can do so without bothering anyone who wants to ignore it. And it will make it easier for later editors who clean it up to move it somewhere from which it's not as likely to be just moved back in.

    The standard practice of giving everything that exists the respect it deserves, even if just a small amount, is almost always the solution. Anywhere. On the Internet, we have the luxury of infinite space for everything, and infinite degrees of respect. The Wikipedia attitude started out working like that. It can continue.
  • by zestyping ( 928433 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @04:26AM (#22698168) Homepage
    If the community decides that a page isn't notable, just label it thus and move on. There's no reason to delete the page.

    The same thing goes for page locking: although there are still some extreme cases where pages need to be locked, many of the reliability problems would be mitigated by labelling recently-changed parts or frequently-changed parts of pages. Readers can then take responsibility for their own level of trust.

    Both cases are about matching expectations to reality: the situation can be improved by changing the content OR by making expectations more accurate.
  • To fix wikipedia (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Loconut1389 ( 455297 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @04:29AM (#22698180)
    * require users to have an account to edit- is that so difficult to do? It adds accountability. At least you've gone through the effort to create a gmail account and a wikipedia account. It won't cure vandalism, but might prevent some of the bot vandalism.
    * allow users to declare a field of expertise (or multiple fields). As these users make edits, their ranking goes up the longer the edits go without reversion- or some other way for users to say "yes, this guy seems to know about astrophysics".
    * Perhaps create a non-profit entity to verify backgrounds (confirm Ph.D's, etc) and add a trust metric which is offset by user rankings.
    * on top of the above, have a mode to view a page color coded by the contributor's expertise. Edits by good editors get a certain color in that particular page view. Allow pages to be restricted to users with a certain level of credibility.

    the above ideas (only ideas) might serve to help rank pages reliability. Then inclusionists could have their way and the exclusionists have less reason to exclude.
  • Britannica (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Loconut1389 ( 455297 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @04:34AM (#22698194)
    What I don't understand is why someone like Britannica doesn't edit pages in wikipedia and cite their own articles. This would serve two purposes-
    * Britannica gets relevance
    * Articles get concrete data that is reliable

    everybody wins?
  • by SharpFang ( 651121 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @05:44AM (#22698372) Homepage Journal
    I wrote a few articles myself, that are of very specialist branch. Certain obscure print enrichment techniques and tools of poligraphy. They are partially against the rules of Wikipedia because they could be called "original research". The trick is there are -NO- reference'able sources of these whatsoever, on the net, in libraries, anywhere. They are a knowledge that is passed as word on mouth, master to apprentice, craftsman to customer, "If you want it to work, you need to..." stuff. There are no websites dedicated to it other than commercial offers pages which are forbidden in Wikipedia.

    I was writing the articles by recalling my direct knowledge of the facts, adding photos of things I made myself, documenting knowledge I gained from the master of the craft, things he shown me and talked about, but he had his own notes, I had my own, but there was no handbook of any kind - not that any would be printed ever, because there would be maybe 10 customers in my whole country to buy it.

    I think this is where Wikipedia can be important, a place to store knowledge which doesn't belong anywhere else and is easily lost permanently. Deletionists, please provide a viable alternative if you think it's wrong.
  • by Cinnaman ( 954100 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @06:10AM (#22698490)
    I'm definitely in the inclusionist camp, I got fed up and quit editing (although I may rejoin under a new name) because of the deletionists, who hold the upper hand because only certain popular editors get nominated for the power to delete (and lock, etc.).
    When I joined in '04 wikipedia was largely inclusionist but since it reached around 750,000 english articles, became increasingly deletionist to the point that it is now largely deletionist.

    Also, the "free" part of its motto "the free encyclopedia" also means open-source, so anything with a hint of not being GDFL approved is deleted with prejudice. "Fair use" at some point became "fair game", nevermind that I (and others) spent time sourcing fair use images only to have them all deleted.
  • by Sockatume ( 732728 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @06:34AM (#22698608)
    Wikipedia's policies on notability and verifiability are rather elaborate and subjective, but there's a gem on the verifiability page [wikipedia.org]:

    If no reliable, third-party sources can be found for an article topic, Wikipedia should not have an article on it.
    Isn't that amazingly elegant? If actually enforced, and used as the sole criterion for notability, it would kill off most of Wikipedia's fancruft and original research ramblings at a stroke.

    A fictional character biography on Will Riker? If the only citations are the show itself, that's not thirdparty, so it's gone. Random Keenspot comic nobody's ever written anything about? *ping*, out of existence. On the other hand, if somebody's published a book on the symbolism in The Matrix, then wham, that article can be made legit. Chex nightmare? No end of good webcomics media coverage there. Deletion-proof! Focussing on other sources' views (rather than the current scenario of editor opinion, but backed up by others if challenged), would greatly improve the quality of articles and reduce the frequency of edit wars too. So the rule does away with the subjective concept of notability, and replaces it with the simple idea of "can we make actually a good, verifiable article out of this?".
  • by FridayBob ( 619244 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @09:42AM (#22699942) Homepage
    This article seems to suggest that a substantial number of Wikipedians would like to see more serious and less trivial content. But what about the more interesting articles that are being held back? For example, during the past two years I've tried very hard to advance a series of natural history articles to a higher level, paying particular attention to the taxonomy involved. Unfortunately, there seems to be little desire for a systematic and hierarchical approach in writing such articles. At least in my corner of WP, it's like there's a glass ceiling that most editors would rather not see anyone break through. If this trend continues, IMO large sections of WP will remain quite average at best.
  • Subjective Policy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by zenasprime ( 207132 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @10:13AM (#22700448) Homepage
    Having recently written a couple of small articles for wikipedia I have a encounter a few problems with the deletionist crowd. Firstly they seem extremely eager in their draconian approach. One administrator that I was crossing paths with was deleting articles at a rate that defied the possibility that the was even making any attempt at discovery. His logged showed that he was deleting articles at a rate of over 3 or 4 deletions in a minutes time. When you confront these administrators about this issue they have a tendency to simply ignore you and delete your article out of spite. I've also found that administrators are often highly subjective in their interpretations of policy. I've confronted administrators about this as well, asking them what makes two almost identical articles in terms of notability and instead of discussing the matter they copy/paste unrelated policy links and tell you to STFU. It was my impression that Wikipedia was a community effort yet the deletionists wont even give new articles enough time for the community to fill out the necessary information. Finally, if there is any sort of disruption to their dominance over content, they will simply block users from participation.

    You can check out my interactions with wikipedia admin at these urls

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/Tefosav [wikipedia.org]


    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_talk:Zenasprime [wikipedia.org]

    Due to this hostile environment, I've pretty much given up on any effort to participate in this "community" based effort.
  • by jc42 ( 318812 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @10:15AM (#22700490) Homepage Journal
    Perhaps a good approach is something that seems to have already started. To use some current jargon, they could "refactor" wikipedia.org into a series of differently-named sites to cover topics that aren't "encyclopedic", but to some people are worth keeping around.

    For example, the Pokemon and World of Warcraft articles, mentioned by others as obviously not appropriate. But to a cultural historian, they are well worth saving. Just not in a general encyclopedia. Instead of deleting the articles that some people put a bunch of time into, why not work closely with the people interested in such things, and move their articles onto another server with another name? Wikipedia itself could have some summary pages on the topics, with links to the other sites.

    I've been making a lot of use of one of them that exists: wiktionary.org. Now, it's quite obvious that documenting every obscure word in every obscure language is utterly inappropriate for wikipedia, or any other encyclopedia for that matter. Traditionally, a books that does that is called "dictionary", not "encyclopedia". Wiktionary is an interesting take on this idea, organized as one big interlocking dictionary of all the world's languages.

    It's pretty clear that wiktionary is the start of something very useful (though it's rather incomplete and in need of a lot of help from a lot of people). It's also clear that its material doesn't belong in wikipedia, except maybe for a few summary articles. There's also a lot of cross-linking between wikipedia and wiktionary. So I'd list this as a successful case of splitting off a significant chunk of human knowledge, kicking it out of wikipedia, and reorganizing it as a successful wiki in its own right.

    As an amusing example of wiktionary's usefulness, a few weeks ago I noticed an apparent anomaly in the use of a 2-char Chinese word that I probably can't include here [wiktionary.org], but it's pronounced ai4ren2 in Mandarin and aijin in Japanese. Using the classical characters, wiktionary has an article giving the Japanese, Mandarin (and Min Nan) meanings of the word. They show two rather different interpretations of the characters whose basic meanings are "love" and "person". This could be a nice example of how a single writing system doesn't always make it possible for people who speak different languages to communicate in writing. In this case, they just might miscommunicate some significant information. You won't often find this problem mentioned in a typical single-language dictionary, but wiktionary's format makes for easy comparison of such borrowings.

    Rather than just deleting articles from wikipedia because they're not "notable" (whatever the hell that might mean to the deleter), we could cool down the fuss by saying that they're more information on the topic than is appropriate for wikipedia, and should be moved to wikiX, for some appropriate X.

    Of course, sometimes the classification is a bit fuzzy. Consider, for example, the word "truthiness", which has good articles in both wikipedia [wikipedia.org] and wiktionary [wiktionary.org]. Each article is (at least for the present) well written for its site. In particular, the wiktionary article gives 19th-century citations for the word's use, and also goes into its etymology, appropriately for a dictionary site. OTOH, the wikipedia article is nearly as funny as Colbert's introduction of the word, and includes links to related topics such as "big lie", "noble lie", and "consensus reality".

    It's a pretty good example of how to handle a borderline case.
  • by drew30319 ( 828970 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @12:05PM (#22702412) Homepage Journal
    Wikipedia already has a guideline that articles be well-sourced and as long as this criteria has been met I don't understand why they shouldn't be included. I have run into this myself and it was a very frustrating experience.

    In 2006 my daughter was murdered by her ex-boyfriend. We had created a non-profit group and memorial fund in her memory and many media outlets had reported on the murder but some editors at Wikipedia did not consider an article on her to be "Wiki-worthy."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jennifer_Ann_Crecente [wikipedia.org]

    One jackalope, in his successful attempt to delete the article, stated "Wikipedia is not a memorial. Murders of this type are lamentably common. Even the existence of memorial funds/scholarships does not confer notability."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/Jennifer_Ann_Crecente [wikipedia.org]

    I then took a different route and instead created an article about the charity I founded in her memory.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jennifer_Ann's_Group [wikipedia.org]

    This article was also nominated for deletion with the comment: "Blatant promotional page."

    Fortunately I was successful in my continued attempts to keep the articles - but only after we had worked to get two pieces of legislation passed, including one named for her.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jennifer's_Law [wikipedia.org]

    The process that I had to go through in order to convince people halfway around the world that this subject was "notable" was profoundly frustrating. The qualification to be fully-cited is an understandably objective criteria but to then apply a notability test is not only completely subjective but also thoroughly unrealistic.
  • Wikipedia vs. Wikia (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Monday March 10, 2008 @12:32PM (#22702896) Homepage

    Someone else commented "The solution to this mess would seem to be to trash everything unsourced or transwiki it to a place that doesn't care about reliability, but that's not going to happen."

    It's happening. Wikia [wikia.com], which is Jimbo Wales' commercial operation, is the other place that "doesn't care about reliability". Wikia claims to be an encyclopedia and a search engine, but all they are is a hosting service for fancruft. They have the Star [Wars|Trek|Craft|Gate] wikis, the Yu-Gi-Oh wiki, the Marvel Comics wiki, and similar popular culture. They even have fan fiction. They don't have much else. The machinery is the same as Wikipedia, but the standards are far lower. Wikia has ads, but the reader demographic lives in their parents' basement, so the clicks may not be worth much.

    There's now a push on Wikia (the "WP:FICT" debate) to move the fancruft to Wikia, where Wales can try to monetize it. Wales is still involved with Wikipedia, so this is a conflict of interest. It's probably good for Wikipedia to have a place to dump the cruft, but it's troubling that the nonprofit and profit-making sides have some of the same management. The IRS may have something to say about that.

    Wikipedia was done around 2006. By then, almost all the subjects worth an article had one. New articles now tend to be self promotion (garage bands, mostly), minor historical figures ("member of the Ontario parliament 1936-1938"), atlas information ("State Route 152"), or utter junk ("I rule!!!").

    Wikipedia's maintenance process is labor-intensive. It's the encyclopedia anybody can trash, and a sizable, ongoing effort is required to fight the trashing. That effort increases as the number of articles goes up, which is what limits the useful size of Wikipedia. If volunteers don't keep up the maintenance, the thing will turn to mush. The right size for Wikipedia is probably below 500,000 articles.

"For a male and female to live continuously together is... biologically speaking, an extremely unnatural condition." -- Robert Briffault