Notability in the English Wikipedia
Notability is a term used within the English version of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. It is used as an editorial metric to determine topics meriting a dedicated encyclopedia article. In general, notability is an attempt to assess whether the topic has "gained sufficiently significant attention by the world at large and over a period of time" as evidenced by significant coverage in reliable secondary sources that are independent of the topic.
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The language of the criterion was modified and adapted to produce notability guidance in specific subject areas, before being introduced into the proposed notability guideline in September 2006. In response to growing concerns in 2006 about issues specifically affecting biographies of living persons, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales intervened to introduce a notability criterion via the core policy of "What Wikipedia Is Not". Wales commented that "I added Wikipedia is not a newspaper and especially not a tabloid newspaper and that we… attempt to make some sort of judgment about the long term historical notability of something…" The criterion was subsequently refined into this Notability guideline; Wales was unsure if the policy changes would be accepted, but within weeks the policy had been "refined, copyedited, and extended to include heuristics for determining long-term notability".
Notability should be demonstrated using reliable sources according to Wikipedia guidelines (not policy). Reliable sources generally include mainstream news media and major academic journals, and exclude self-published sources, particularly when self-published on the internet. The foundation of this theory is that such sources "exercise some form of editorial control."
Verifiability, or the ability for the reader to confirm that content corresponds to the cited source, is the standard. "Gather references both to use as source(s) of your information and also to demonstrate notability of your article's subject matter. References to blogs, personal websites and MySpace don't count – we need reliable sources."
Content not based on reliable sources may be deemed original research, which is prohibited on Wikipedia. "A correlate to this notability criterion, crucial to the identity of the site, is the prohibition on original research, including the synthesis of previously published material."
As the Wikipedia community has grown, its rules have in turn become more complex, a trend labeled by Nicholson Baker as instruction creep. This trend is reflected in the development and increasing complexity of the notability guidelines, with various special notability guidelines being proposed for specific topic areas, including notability criteria for porn stars.
Commentators have stressed the novelty of the notability criterion, which makes Wikipedia the first encyclopedia to openly discuss criteria for inclusion: "For the first time in history, a broad open discussion about 'encyclopedia notability' has been started that has already given rise to intensive debates and detailed - while still unfinished and unofficial - lists of possible criteria."
Attempts to apply notability consistently across Wikipedia have led to frequent controversy, especially on topics of relatively minor interest which a paper encyclopedia would not cover. Two differing perspectives on notability are commonly known as "inclusionism" and "deletionism". In one instance, a group of editors agreed that many articles on web comics should be deleted on the grounds that the various topics lacked notability. Some of the comic artists concerned reacted negatively, accusing editors of being "wannabe tin-pot dictators masquerading as humble editors." In 2007, notability disputes spread into other topics, including companies, places, websites, and people. As Nicholson Baker put it, "There are quires, reams, bales of controversy over what constitutes notability in Wikipedia: nobody will ever sort it out."
Timothy Noah wrote several articles in 2007 in Slate about the threatened deletion of his entry on grounds of his insufficient notability. He concluded that "Wikipedia's notability policy resembles U.S. immigration policy before 9/11: stringent rules, spotty enforcement." David Segal commented in the Washington Post that "Wiki-worthiness has quietly become a new digital divide, separating those who think they are notable from those granted the imprimatur of notability by a horde of anonymous geeks."
A criticism by Professor Hans Gese is that "Wikipedia sees itself as a publication that relies on reputation that has already been produced ex ante: especially when it is based on consensual mass media judgment or—in the case of lesser known individuals—on different smaller, but mutually independent sources. Of course, this policy does not acknowledge that a Wikipedia entry may itself become a factor in reputation building: especially when the information that this entry exists is propagated by journalists and other potent 'multiplicators'".
- Wikipedia contributors (2011-10-18). "Wikipedia: Notability". Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2011-10-18.
- Kathryn Tabb,. "Authority and Authorship in a 21st-Century Encyclopaedia and a ‘Very Mysterious Foundation’". eSharp (University of Glasgow) (12: Technology and Humanity). ISSN 1742-4542.
- Andrea Forte and Amy Bruckman (2008), "Scaling Consensus: Increasing Decentralization in Wikipedia Governance", Proceedings of the 41st Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences
- Wall Street Journal, 6 April 2009, Wikipedia's Old-Fashioned Revolution The online encyclopedia is fast becoming the best.
- Nicholson Baker, New York Review of Books, 20 March 2008, The Charms of Wikipedia
- Timothy Noah, Slate, 24 February 2007, Evicted From Wikipedia:Why the online encyclopedia won't let just anyone in
- Geser, Hans (June 2007). "From printed to "wikified" encyclopedias: Sociological Aspects of an incipient revolution". Sociology in Switzerland: Towards Cybersociety and "Vireal" Social Relations:Online Publikationen. University of Zurich.
- Segal, David (December 3, 2006). "Look Me Up Under N For Nobody; On Wikipedia, Deletion Looms For the Patently Non-Notable". The Washington Post (The Washington Post Company). pp. D01.
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