Most inclusionists were not extremists: they did not favor articles on that morning’s breakfast. But in a vast range of cases, they thought that limited and imperfect information was better than nothing. Deletionists disagreed, and to resolve the many borderline cases, the community had to find an objective and quantifiable metric for discrimination. Neither cash nor file-size could do the job, so they settled on the principle of notability: “a topic is presumed to be notable if it has received significant coverage in reliable sources that are independent of the subject.”
In many cases, however, notability cannot be determined even by following thoughtfully developed guidelines. It is, for example, much harder to verify the notability of a figure from the 1920s than from the 1990s. Most of the important characters of that earlier era are gone from public memory, and newspaper archives from those days cannot be accessed easily online (where Wikipedians spend most of their research time). Given that the flow of articles on Wikipedia far outweighs the attention span of its editors, the latter often have to make the same tough choices that print editors do: why waste a day improving one hard-to-nail-down article when one can improve a hundred?
Any thoughts from the Slashdot crowd?