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This essay outlines my opinions and feelings on the nomination of biographical articles for deletion and subsequent discussion(s), especially those pertaining to military personnel and those involved with recent warfare. These types of discussions can sometimes get very heated due to the high emotional stakes involved.

If you are reading this because I have nominated an article for deletion, read Wikipedia:Help, my article got nominated for deletion!. Try to keep your cool and act civil in all discussion (nothing hurts your case worse than acting like a fool or abusive). to better understand the deletion process, read Wikipedia:Guide to deletion.

The stakes[edit]

In my experience, an article about a servicemember killed, wounded, or otherwise closely connected to a war is usually written by a relative, friend, or member of his/her unit. First off, the conflict of interest is immediate, and the emotional backlash is so hot that any actions that "threaten" the article are immediately regarded as hostile. The stakes run high, and usually made worse because the author(s) are almost always inexperienced with Wikipedia's Policies and guidelines, especially those regarding deletion and notability.

One of the worst parts is this lack of good faith. I'm a U.S. Marine, and I hate nominating an article about my brothers and sisters in arms. But people assume things about me and question my motives. I've been blasted about denigrating the honor of people who have fought for my freedom, as if I haven't done the same for them. My motives are never personal; I don't buy into inter-service rivalry, I don't try to hide or cover up things that embarass my country and fellows, and I don't try to minimize sacrifices made. I simply want articles on Wikipedia to fall in line with established policy and guidelines, even if I don't always agree with them. I'm not a bureaucratic bean-counter who mindlessly enforces empty law either, I actively try to seek exceptions and sometimes I will ignore rules that don't make sense. However, don't mistake my reluctance to delete or willingness to discuss/compromise as weakness; I don't tolerate bullies and will defend my position reasonably. Incivillity towards me or others only hurts your attempts to save the article.

The issue[edit]

For me, a valid nomination for deletion is usually about notability.

From Wikipedia:Notability:[1]

A topic is presumed to merit an article if it meets the general notability guidelines [below] and is not excluded by WP:NOT.
  • "Significant coverage" means that sources address the subject directly in detail, so no original research is needed to extract the content. Significant coverage is more than a trivial mention but it need not be the main topic of the source material.
  • "Reliable" means sources need editorial integrity to allow verifiable evaluation of notability, per the reliable source guideline. Sources may encompass published works in all forms and media, and in any language. Availability of secondary sources covering the subject is a good test for notability.
  • "Sources,"[2] for notability purposes, should be secondary sources, as those provide the most objective evidence of notability. The number and nature of reliable sources needed varies depending on the depth of coverage and quality of the sources. Multiple sources are generally expected.[3] Multiple publications from the same author or organization are usually regarded as a single source for the purposes of establishing notability.
  • "Independent of the subject" excludes works produced by those affiliated with the subject including (but not limited to): self-publicity, advertising, self-published material by the subject, autobiographies, press releases, etc.[4]
  • "Presumed" means that significant coverage in reliable sources establishes a presumption, not a guarantee, that a subject is suitable for inclusion. Editors may reach a consensus that although a topic meets this criterion, it is not appropriate for a stand-alone article. For example, such an article may violate what Wikipedia is not.[5]


  • Notability requires verifiable evidence
  • Self-promotion and indiscriminate publicity is not always good evidence of notability
  • Notability is not temporary
  • Notability guidelines do not directly limit article content

From Wikipedia:Notability (people):[6]

The topic of an article should be notable, or "worthy of notice"; that is, "significant, interesting, or unusual enough to deserve attention or to be recorded."[7] Notable in the sense of being "famous", or "popular"—although not irrelevant—is secondary.


A person is presumed to be notable if he or she has been the subject of published[8] secondary source material which is reliable, intellectually independent,[9] and independent of the subject.[10]

  • If the depth of coverage is not substantial, then multiple independent sources may be needed to prove notability; trivial coverage of a subject by secondary sources may not be sufficient to establish notability.[11]
  • Primary sources may be used to support content in an article, but they do not contribute toward proving the notability of a subject.

People are generally notable if they meet any of the following standards. Failure to meet these criteria is not conclusive proof that a subject should not be included; conversely, meeting one or more does not guarantee that a subject should be included.

A person who fails to meet these additional criteria may still be notable under Wikipedia:Notability.

  1. The person has received a well-known and significant award or honor, or has been nominated for one several times.
  2. The person has made a widely recognized contribution that is part of the enduring historical record in his or her specific field.[12]



When an individual is significant for his or her role in a single event, it may be unclear whether an article should be written about the individual, the event or both. In considering whether or not to create separate articles, the degree of significance of the event itself and the degree of significance of the individual's role within it should be considered. The general rule in many cases is to cover the event, not the person. However, as both the event and the individual's role grow larger, separate articles become justified.[13]

If the event is highly significant, and the individual's role within it is a large one, a separate article is generally appropriate. The assassins of major political leaders, such as Gavrilo Princip, fit into this category, as indicated by the large coverage of the event in reliable sources that devotes significant attention to the individual's role.

When the role played by an individual in the event is less significant, an independent article may not be needed, and a redirect is appropriate. For example, George Holliday, who videotaped the Rodney King beating, redirects to Rodney King. On the other hand, if an event is of sufficient importance, even relatively minor participants may require their own articles, for example Howard Brennan, a witness to the JFK assassination.

Another issue arises when an individual plays a major role in a minor event. In this case, it is not generally appropriate to have an article on both the person and the event. Generally in this case, the name of the person should redirect to the article on the incident, especially if the individual is only notable for that incident and is all that that person is associated with in source coverage. For example, Steve Bartman redirects to Steve Bartman incident. In some cases, however, a person famous for only one event may be more widely known than the event itself, for example, the Tank Man. In such cases, the article about the event may be most appropriately named for the person involved.

From Wikipedia:WikiProject Military history/Notability guide#People:[14]

In general, an individual is presumed to be notable if they have received significant coverage in multiple verifiable independent, reliable sources.

In particular, an individual will almost always have sufficient coverage to qualify if they:

  1. Were awarded their nation's highest award for valour; or
  2. Were awarded their nation's second-highest award for valour (such as the Navy Cross) multiple times; or
  3. Held a rank considered to be a flag or general officer, or their historical equivalents; or
  4. Held the top-level military command position of their nation's armed forces (such as Chief of the General Staff), or of a department thereof (such as Chief of Army Staff); or
  5. Played an important role in a significant military event; or
  6. Commanded a notable body of troops in combat; or
  7. Made a material contribution to military science that is indisputably attributed to them; or
  8. Were the undisputed inventor of a form of military technology which significantly changed the nature of or conduct of war; or
  9. Were recognised by their peers as an authoritative source on military matters/writing.

For the purposes of these criteria, a "substantial body of troops" refers to a capital ship, a division or larger formation, or their historical equivalents.

Conversely, any person who is only mentioned in genealogical records or family histories, or is traceable only through primary documents, is not notable.

For the record, I disagree somewhat with some of these provisions. I disagree with #2 in that I have consistanctly argued that a Silver Star lends just enough to often assure notability, but I've just as consistantly been voted down; the precedent firms up the curent consensus, and I am in the minority opinion. Likewise with #3, I don't think that stars are automatically enough; however, there is usually a positive correlation with being a flag officer and clauses 5, 6, and/or 7. I also posit that the definition of "substantial body of troops" can't be universally applied; a battalion is usually notable in the United States Marine Corps, but the minimum assumption is that of a brigade in the larger United States Army, and neither definition can be easily applied to the People's Liberation Army or Afghan National Army. I also note that clauses 7, 8, and 9 must be applied with Wikipedia:Wikipedia is not for things made up one day in mind, and that credit for an invention, science, fad, or neologism doesn't equate to notibility, even if the concept is notable. I also refuse to consider bloggers as satisfying #9 unless they have established some serious credibility.

From Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not:[15]

Wikipedia is not a soapbox or means of promotion

Wikipedia is not a soapbox, a battleground, or a vehicle for propaganda, advertising and showcasing. This applies to articles, categories, templates, talk page discussions, and user pages. Therefore, content hosted in Wikipedia is not for:

2. Opinion pieces. Although some topics, particularly those concerning current affairs and politics, may stir passions and tempt people to "climb soapboxes" (i.e. passionately advocate their pet point of view), Wikipedia is not the medium for this. Articles must be balanced to put entries, especially for current events, in a reasonable perspective, and represent a neutral point of view. Furthermore, Wikipedia authors should strive to write articles that will not quickly become obsolete. However, Wikipedia's sister project Wikinews allows commentaries on its articles.
3. Scandal mongering, something "heard through the grapevine" or gossip. Articles and content about living people are required to meet an especially high standard, as they may otherwise be libellous or infringe the subjects' right to privacy. Articles should not be written purely to attack the reputation of another person.
4. Self-promotion. It can be tempting to write about yourself or projects in which you have a strong personal involvement. However, do remember that the standards for encyclopedic articles apply to such pages just like any other. This includes the requirement to maintain a neutral point of view, which is difficult when writing about yourself or about projects close to you. Creating overly abundant links and references to autobiographical sources is unacceptable. See Wikipedia:Autobiography, Wikipedia:Notability and Wikipedia:Conflict of interest.


Wikipedia is not a blog, webspace provider, social networking, or memorial site

Wikipedia is not a social network like Myspace or Facebook. You may not host your own website, blog, or wiki at Wikipedia. Wikipedia pages are not:

4. Memorials. Wikipedia is not the place to memorialize deceased friends, relatives, acquaintances, or others. Subjects of encyclopedia articles must satisfy Wikipedia's notability requirements. Note that this policy does not apply outside of the main article space. While using user space to create a memorial is generally not acceptable, limited exemption applies to the user space of established Wikipedians who have died. At a minimum it is expected that they were regular contributors, and that more than one tenured Wikipedian will have used the deceased user's page (or an appropriate sub-page) to add comments in the event, and after verification, of their death.

Many of the content restrictions listed above apply to your user page and user talk page as well. Your user page is not a personal homepage, nor is it a blog. More importantly, your user page is not yours. It is a part of Wikipedia, and exists to make collaboration among Wikipedians easier, not for self-promotion. See User page help for current consensus guidelines on user pages.

Wikipedia is not a directory

Wikipedia is not a directory of everything that exists or has existed.[16] Please see Wikipedia:Alternative outlets for alternatives. Wikipedia articles are not: 1. Lists or repositories of loosely associated topics such as (but not limited to) quotations, aphorisms, or persons (real or fictional). If you want to enter lists of quotations, put them into our sister project Wikiquote. Of course, there is nothing wrong with having lists if their entries are famous because they are associated with or significantly contribute to the list topic. Wikipedia also includes reference tables and tabular information for quick reference. Merged groups of small articles based on a core topic are certainly permitted. (See Wikipedia:Stand-alone lists#Appropriate topics for lists for clarification.)
2. Genealogical entries. Biography articles should only be for people with some sort of fame, achievement, or perhaps notoriety. One measure of these is whether someone has been featured in several external sources (on or off-line). Less well-known people may be mentioned within other articles (e.g. Ronald Gay in Violence against LGBT people). See m:Wikipeople for a proposed genealogical/biographical dictionary project.
3. The White or Yellow Pages. Contact information such as phone numbers, fax numbers and email addresses are not encyclopedic.
4. Directories, directory entries, electronic program guide, or a resource for conducting business. For example, an article on a radio station should not list upcoming events, current promotions, current schedules, et cetera, although mention of major events, promotions or historically significant programme lists and schedules may be acceptable. Likewise an article on a business should not contain a list of all the company's patent filings. Furthermore, the Talk pages associated with an article are for talking about the article, not for conducting the business of the topic of the article.
6. Non-encyclopedic cross-categorizations, such as "People from ethnic/cultural/religious group X employed by organization Y" or "Restaurants specializing in food type X in city Y". Cross-categories like these are not considered sufficient basis to create an article, unless the intersection of those categories is in some way a culturally significant phenomenon. See also Wikipedia:Overcategorization for this issue in categories.
7. A complete exposition of all possible details. Rather, an article is a summary of accepted knowledge regarding its subject.[17] Treat verifiable and sourced statements with appropriate weight.

Note that these policies and guidelines are not necessarily mutually exclusive. For example, an individual may fail WP:GNG and WP:BIO, but pass WP:MILPEOPLE and thus be notable (such as Jason Dunham). Vice versa could be true, where an individual fails MILPEOPLE but passes GNG (such as Chance Phelps).[18] Also note that other notability guidelines may apply, because military members tend to have careers after thier service is over (such as athletes, authors, businesspeople, andpoliticians).

Also note that the policy on biographies of living persons (BLP) is paramount and overrules any other consideration. WP:BLP1E is frequently used to delete articles out of this consideration. Libel and/or a non-neutral point of view are unacceptable, but luckily, the are usually easy to fix without deletion. If you or an immediate relative are called for deletion, read Wikipedia:Biographies of living persons/Help; I consider a request from the subject (or his/her heirs) to be a primary consideration.

My take-away[edit]

So, what does this mean to me when I consider deletion?

Simply being a soldier or sailor is not enough. Nor is participation in a war or campaign, deployment, or fighting in a specific battle or skirmish. Earning awards for valor is usually not enough unless it's the highest two, a significant number, or earned in an especially spectacular manner. Death in war, while tragic, does not confer notability. Notibility is not inherited by family or proximity. Being mentioned on unit rolls/rosters or on memorial sites does not establish notibility. Being mentioned in passing in a media work (such as film or book) isn't enough; there must some depth to it. Blogging or being filmed/photographed doesn't cut it. A person's life before/after military serivce that is independant of that service may have independant notability, but if not, adding the two is usually not enough for notability either. When considering a person notable for a single event, living or not, I am forced to use my judgement regarding the notability of that event and the person's involvement therein.

I avoid nominating or voteing to delete based on actionable issues unless it is very serious (such as copyright or BLP). I figure it's better to have a mess that is going to be improved than nothing at all. That means that Manual of Style issues are not a valid deletion rationale to me. Likewise, I consider the distinction between notability and fame/noteriety. Consider the lasting impact of notability: is the person going to be known to more than a specific group? Will he or she be known years from now, or ever featured in a historic work?

The resolution[edit]

Often, authors attempt to negotiate a compromise. However, these are almost never feasible. Either an individual has notability or he/she does not, and there isn't much for an individual to do about it.

Ironically enough, I regard myself as an inclusionist, and I take a eventualist view of article quality. This means that an article I nominate for deletion is not done on a whim, nor is it done with regards to the quality of the article. I believe that any article, no matter how broken or poorly written can be salvaged with careful editing if the appropriate reliable sources and references are available (with the only exception of WP:copyright violations; see the OTRS if you submitted your own copywritten material). But even an article of exceptional quality can lack sufficient proof notability to be included in Wikipedia, so further editing does not resolve the issue. If a person is notable, there will be published refrences somewhere about him or her. If they aren't, I will explain why in the deletion rationale.

Often, I'm willing to consider a merge and/or redirect. Sometimes, the event is more notable than the individual, and the article can be converted from a biography. Other times, the person's noteriety is linked to somebody or something else, and a redirect is a worthy idea because it could be a valid search term (especially when the person is featured on some sort of media, such as a TV short).

Ultimately, however, articles I nominate for notability tend to get deleted, and I don't usually stick my neck out for an unsound rationale. There is considerable precedent for the kinds of nominations I make. If the article is deleted and you still disagree, you can try talking to the closing administrator, or Deletion review.

The bottom line[edit]

I'm not trying to disrespect or insult anyone, especially the fallen. Any negative opinions I have about individuals is not expressed on Wikipedia. If I've nominated an article you've written for deletion, don't take it personally. If I vote in a deletion discussion in a way you disagree with, follow the same advice. Think objectively about refuting my arguments with evidence and policy. If I'm wrong or you uncover something I was unaware of, I will note my change of mind and withdraw the nom/change my vote as necessary. Don't try to bully or lecture me, and don't appeal to my emotions. If we come to an impasse, recognize it and end a futile argument that is unlikely to be productive.


  1. ^ Revision as of 00:06, 10 November 2010
  2. ^ Including but not limited to newspapers, books and e-books, magazines, television and radio documentaries, reports by government agencies, and scientific journals. In the absence of multiple sources, it must be possible to verify that the source reflects a neutral point of view, is credible and provides sufficient detail for a comprehensive article. Sources are not required to be available online, and they are not required to be in English.
  3. ^ Lack of multiple sources suggests that the topic may be more suitable for inclusion in an article on a broader topic. Mere republications of a single source or news wire service do not always constitute multiple works. Several journals simultaneously publishing articles in the same geographic region about an occurrence, does not always constitute multiple works, especially when the authors are relying on the same sources, and merely restating the same information. Specifically, several journals publishing the same article within the same geographic region from a news wire service is not a multiplicity of works.
  4. ^ Works produced by the subject, or those with a strong connection to them, are unlikely to be strong evidence of notability. See also: Wikipedia:Conflict of interest for handling of such situations.
  5. ^ Moreover, not all coverage in reliable sources constitutes evidence of notability for the purposes of article creation; for example, directories and databases, advertisements, announcements columns, and minor news stories are all examples of coverage that may not actually support notability when examined, despite their existence as reliable sources.
  6. ^ Revision as of 22:09, 11 November 2010
  7. ^ Encarta dictionary definition Retrieved 13 March 2008
  8. ^ What constitutes a "published work" is deliberately broad.
  9. ^ Sources that are pure derivatives of an original source can be used as references, but do not contribute toward establishing the notability of a subject. "Intellectual independence" requires not only that the content of sources be non-identical, but also that the entirety of content in a published work not be derived from (or based in) another work (partial derivations are acceptable). For example, a speech by a politician about a particular person contributes toward establishing the notability of that person, but multiple reproductions of the transcript of that speech by different news outlets do not. A biography written about a person contributes toward establishing his or her notability, but a summary of that biography lacking an original intellectual contribution does not.
  10. ^ Autobiography and self-promotion are not the routes to having an encyclopaedia article. The barometer of notability is whether people independent of the subject itself have actually considered the subject notable enough that they have written and published non-trivial works that focus upon it. Thus, entries in biographical dictionaries that accept self-nominations (such as the Marquis Who's Who) do not prove notability.
  11. ^ Non-triviality is a measure of the depth of content of a published work, and how far removed that content is from a simple directory entry or a mention in passing that does not discuss the subject in detail. A credible 200-page independent biography of a person that covers that person's life in detail is non-trivial, whereas a birth certificate or a 1-line listing on an election ballot form is not. Database sources such as Notable Names Database, Internet Movie Database and Internet Adult Film Database are not considered credible since they are, like wikis, mass-edited with little oversight. Additionally, these databases have low, wide-sweeping generic standards of inclusion.
  12. ^ Generally, a person who is "part of the enduring historical record" will have been written about, in depth, independently in multiple history books on that field, by historians. A politician who has received "significant press coverage" has been written about, in depth, independently in multiple news feature articles, by journalists. An actor who has been featured in magazines has been written about, in depth, independently in multiple magazine feature articles, by magazine article writers. An actor or TV personality who has "an independent biography" has been written about, in depth, in a book, by an independent biographer.
  13. ^ It is important for editors to understand two clear differentiations of WP:BIO1E when compared to WP:BLP1E. Firstly, WP:BLP1E should be applied only to biographies of living people. Secondly, WP:BLP1E should be applied only to biographies of low profile individuals.
  14. ^ Revision as of 20:04, 26 October 2010
  15. ^ Revision as of 13:47, 10 November 2010
  16. ^ This provision is not intended to encompass lists of links to articles within Wikipedia that are used for internal organization or to describe a notable subject.
  17. ^ See Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Rex071404
  18. ^ In the interests of transparency, I will disclose that I am heavily involved in the editing of both example articles (Jason Dunham & Chance Phelps).

See also[edit]