User:Uncle G/On notability

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The Primary Notability Criterion
An article's subject is notable if it has been the subject of non-trivial published works by multiple separate sources that are independent of that subject itself.

Wikipedia is not a directory. It is an encyclopaedia. It is notability that stops Wikipedia from becoming a directory instead of an encyclopaedia.

The primary criterion for notability is whether the subject of an article has been the subject of non-trivial published works by multiple separate sources that are independent of that subject, which applies to all classes of subjects.

For certain classes of subjects, we augment that primary criterion with secondary inclusion criteria that ensure that our coverage of certain topics is coherent.

Wikipedia is not a directory[edit]

It is a widely accepted principle that Wikipedia is not a directory. Wikipedia is not a directory of businesses, like the Yellow Pages. That's Yellowikis' job. Wikipedia is not a genealogical directory. That's Wikitree's job. Wikipedia is not a directory of World Wide Web sites. That's Wikidweb's and AboutUs's job. Wikipedia is an encyclopaedia.

Unfortunately, if the criteria for inclusion in Wikipedia were solely the strict application of our Neutral point of view, Verifiability, and No original research policies, a directory (rather than an encyclopaedia) is what would result. This is for the simple reason that directories exist that can be used as reliable sources.

  • Consider how the three policies, when applied alone, operate with respect to businesses. Every business that has a listing in the Yellow Pages is verifiable, at least as far as its address and telephone number. And it is not original research to say "Acme Corp is a business with telephone number 1-555-555-1234.". Original research is about novel syntheses and novel information; and about the fact checking and peer review processes. It would be original research to state that "Acme Corp's phone numbers are mostly concentrated in area X, therefore their headquarters is located there." It is however reasonable to expect that a telephone company checks the facts in the Yellow Pages. Neutral Point of View, Verifiability, and No Original Research gets us a business directory.
  • Consider how the three policies, when applied alone, operate with respect to people. Every person that has a passport or a green card is verifiable, at least as far as their names, occupations, nationality, and distinguishing features. It is not original research to say "John Smith is a Canadian dentist with a mole on his left cheek.". Again, it is reasonable to expect that governments check the facts on passports and on green cards. Neutral Point of View, Verifiability, and No Original Research gets us a database of all existing people.
  • Consider how the three policies, when applied alone, operate with respect to web sites. Every second-level domain name that is registered with a domain name registry is verifiable, at least as far as the details listed in the registry, such as the contact names, expiration dates, domain name registrars and so forth. It is not original research to say "microsoft.com is a domain name registered by Microsoft Corporation that expires in 2014.". And again, it is reasonable to expect that registries check the expiration dates on domain registrations. Neutral Point of View, Verifiability, and No Original Research gets us a directory of all registered domain names.

The primary notability criterion[edit]

The primary criterion for notability, that applies in all fields, is that an article's subject is notable if it has been the subject of non-trivial published works by multiple separate sources that are independent of that subject itself.

There are several important considerations behind this criterion:

Independence of the sources from the subject
The requirement that sources be independent of the subject ensures that notability is not gained through self-promotion. A company, for example, can have thousands of its own press releases and other material re-printed in magazines and newspapers. But it is only when a source other than the subject produces and publishes a non-trivial work about the company that the primary notability criterion is satisfied. A person, for example, can publish xyr autobiography on the World Wide Web. But it is only when someone else writes and publishes a non-trivial work about that person that the primary notability criterion is satisfied.1
Non-triviality of the published works
The requirement that the published works be non-trivial ensures that simple directory entries, catalogue listings, guidebook listings, and so forth do not satisfy the criterion. The published work must be more than a simple directory entry, or an incidental mention of the subject. There must be more secondary source material available in the work than would constitute a directory entry on the subject.
The scope of published works
What constitutes a published work is specifically not limited by the notability criterion. A journal article, a newspaper or a magazine feature article, a television documentary, a book, a consumer report by a watchdog organization, or even a widely recognized Internet FAQ document2 all count as published works.

The rationale that underpins the primary notability criterion is that the fact that something has been noted demonstrates that it is notable. Notability is something that is judged by the world at large, not by Wikipedia editors making personal judgements. If multiple people in the world at large that are independent of the subject have gone to the effort of creating and publishing non-trivial works of their own about the subject, then they clearly consider it to be notable. Wikipedia simply reflects this judgement.

Secondary notability criteria[edit]

For certain classes of subjects, the primary criterion is augmented by secondary inclusion criteria. The intention of these criteria is to ensure that our coverage of certain subjects is coherent, even when the primary notability criterion would fail.

Businesses[edit]

main article: WP:CORP

We want our coverage of stock market indexes to be coherent. Therefore our notability and inclusion criteria for businesses comprise secondary criteria that ensure that every company that is used by a stock market index (that isn't simply taken from the whole market) is included, even if there are no independent published works about that company and the only information about it is business directory listings and corporate autobiography.

People[edit]

main articles: WP:BIO and WP:MUSIC

We want to include an article on a band, musical group, or musician that has had a top 10 hit, even if there are no independent published works about that band/group/person and the only information about them is the chart listings and autobiography. (Articles on bands/groups/musicians comprise both biography and discography sections. Even if the former cannot be populated from sources, the latter can.) Therefore our music notability and inclusion criteria comprise secondary criteria that ensure that bands/groups/musicians who have had hits are included.

We want to include an article on an author that has published widely read books or articles, even if there are no independent published works about that person and the only information about them is the list of what they have published. (Articles on authors comprise both biography and bibliography sections. Even if the former cannot be populated from sources, the latter can.) Therefore our people notability and inclusion criteria comprise secondary criteria that ensure that authors who have published widely read books/articles are included.

Tips for editors[edit]

Writing about subjects close to you[edit]

main articles: Wikipedia:List of bad article ideas and Wikipedia:Autobiography See also: Wikipedia:Amnesia test

You can write about subjects that are close to you, but you must be very careful indeed. The primary requirement is this:

When writing about subjects that are close to you, don't use your own personal knowledge of the subject, and don't cite yourself, your web site, or the subject's web site. Instead, use what is written about the subject by other people, independently, as your sources. Cite those sources in your very first edit. If you don't have such sources, don't write.

So, for example, if you are writing about yourself or about a family member, then use independent biographies as sources, not your own autobiography. If there aren't any independent biographies, don't write about yourself or your family member. Similarly, if you are writing about your company, then use independent articles written about your company as sources, not your company's autobiography and press releases. If there are no such sources, don't write about your company.

This approach has two benefits:

  • You'll find yourself automatically excluded from writing about non-notable subjects.
  • The question of notability will not arise. It will be self evident from the article, which will cite the independent biographies as sources, that the subject fulfils the primary notability criterion.

Giving rationales at AFD[edit]

When giving rationales for keeping or deleting articles based upon notability, please learn the lesson of Wikipedia:Requests for comment/ComCat. A bare "nn, delete" or "n, keep" are not good rationales. In fact, they aren't really rationales at all, and of no use to a closing administrator in making a decision. A good rationale:

  • links to the notability criteria (WP:CORP, WP:BIO, WP:WEB, and so forth) that one is employing — This shows novice and single-article editors where the criteria actually are.
  • explains in detail how the subject either satisfies or does not satisfy those criteria, including what research was done to determine this
  • doesn't use the abbreviation "nn" — Novice editors are highly unlikely to know what this abbreviation means.
See also User:Stifle/Don't say non-notable.

What notability is not[edit]

There are several things that are commonly conflated with notability, or that editors erroneously accuse notability of being.

Notability is not fame nor importance[edit]

Notability is not the same as the concepts of fame or importance. A subject that is not famous or that is not important is not automatically non-notable; and conversely a subject that is notable is not automatically famous nor important. The concepts of fame and importance have implicit in them the notion of a target population — a subject is famous amongst a group of people, a subject is important to a particular set of people. Notability has no such implicit notion. Notability is independent of specific groups of people.

To understand this, consider that the primary notability criterion makes no mention of readership. A subject is not notable under the primary criterion if it is widely read about. It is notable by dint of people writing about it. It is the source writers, not the target readership population, that is relevant to the primary notability criterion.

Whilst someone may become famous because lots of people read an article about them in a mass-market tabloid newspaper, what makes that person notable, or rather what demonstrates that that person is notable, is the fact that the journalist, editor, and publisher at the newspaper went to the effort of researching, writing, and publishing an independently sourced non-trivial article about that person.

Notability is not subjective[edit]

Notability does not equate to "I've heard of it."/"I've never heard of it." or "I think that it is notable."/"I don't regard it as being notable.". An editor who judges an article based upon those subjective criteria is not employing a notability criterion.

Notability is not judged by Wikipedia editors directly. As is the case in other aspects, when it comes to notability Wikipedia is a reflection of what exists in the world. The notability of a subject is not judged by Wikipedia editors themselves. It is judged by the world at large. A subject is notable if the world at large considers it to be notable.

Wikipedia editors determine whether the world has judged a subject to be notable by applying the primary notability criterion. If someone independent of the subject has gone to the effort of creating and publishing a non-trivial published work about it, then that someone clearly deems the subject to be notable. Wikipedia editors determine whether a subject is notable not by considering whether they themselves think that it is notable. They determine whether a subject is notable by looking for the existence of non-trivial, independently sourced, published works on the subject.

Notability is not verifiability[edit]

Notability does not equate to verifiability from reliable sources. As discussed earlier, many directories are reliable sources and have been fact checked. Verifiability from reliable sources yields a directory. The purpose of notability is to ensure that Wikipedia does not become a directory, and leaves the creation of directories of businesses, all people who have ever lived, web sites, and suchlike to those projects that have those as their goals.

Some editors artificially restrict what constitutes a "reliable source" in order to yield the same results as the primary notability criterion. However, this does not work, because in order to achieve the desired results it is not only necessary to eliminate unreliable sources, but it is also necessary to eliminate sources that are not only reliable, but are authoritative. That is clearly wrong.

An example should make this clear: The plot of grassland to the west of Uncle G's house is verifiable. It is recorded in publicly accessible, government maintained, records. Those records include regulations that apply to the land, a history of its ownership, detailed maps, and photographs. Not only are these records reliable sources, they are authoritative. There is no scope for an encyclopaedia article on this plot of grassland. It is just an area where grass grows. It is not Mill Ends Park. But verifiability from reliable sources cannot exclude this plot of grassland without excluding authoritative sources along the way. However, the primary notability criterion does. No-one has created or published a non-trivial published work, e.g. a detailed history or analysis, about the plot of grassland to the west of Uncle G's house. But they have about Mill Ends Park. Therefore the latter is notable and the former is not.

Notability is not a blanket[edit]

It is tempting to infer "All X are notable." from observations that many "X" have been found to satisfy the primary notability criterion, and thence proclaim that a precedent has been set. Precedent is an "If article X then article Y." argument, which is fundamentally flawed. Every subject must be considered on its individual merits. Inferences that "All X are notable.", and indeed that "All X are non-notable.", are invariably wrong. Shortcuts like this may be tempting, but must be avoided.

One example: It was long proclaimed by some editors that "All real places are notable." as an inference derived, in part, from the discussion that came about when Rambot began creating articles on United States cities. But that isn't actually correct. The plot of grassland to the west of Uncle G's house is a real place, but it isn't notable. Danmark (island) (AfD discussion) and Hoy (Lake Constance) (AfD discussion) are real places, but there's nothing written — no histories, geographies, geological reports, demographic studies, and so forth — about them. The primary notability criterion isn't satisfied.

The reason that a lot of real places turn out to be notable is not that "All real places are notable.". It is that because of their natures cities, towns, and villages are discussed in multiple non-trivial published works such as history books; demographic, economic, and sociological studies; census reports; and so forth. It is wrong to say that "All real places are notable.", and then to employ that as a blanket criterion in future. It is correct to say that because of their very natures almost all cities, towns, and even villages in the world will satisfy the primary notability criterion.

Dealing with non-notable things[edit]

Arranging content
Wikipedia should not only reflect what the sources say, but how (in terms of what primary topics they address) they say it. If a subject only warrants an entry in a list, a single line in a table, or a peripheral mention in a discussion of another subject outside of Wikipedia, then that is how it should be covered inside Wikipedia.

Notability deals in subjects and topics, not content.3 That a subject is non-notable does not mean that verifiable information about a subject should be excluded from Wikipedia. It means that the subject is not an appropriate one for an article.

There are, in the main, two ways in which subjects can fail to satisfy the primary notability criterion whilst still being mentioned in published works:

  • There are no published works about the subject that are from sources independent of the subject itself. In other words, the only information about the subject is from autobiographies, advertising, self-publicity, press releases, and so forth.
  • There are published works, from sources independent of the subject, that mention the subject, but they are not non-trivial. They deal with the subject superficially, or tangentially when actually addressing a different subject.

In the first case, Wikipedia should not have an article. For example: If the only sources of information about a person are xyr autobiographies, then Wikipedia should not have an article on that person.4

In the second case, the fact that the subject is non-notable means that having an entire article is the wrong way for Wikipedia to be presenting what information there is on the subject. That doesn't necessarily mean deletion, however. One way of presenting the information correctly is merger into an article with a wider scope, the same scope as the published works outside of Wikipedia, for example.

Some examples should make this clear:

  • The only information that was available about the English Independence Party (AfD discussion) from sources independent of the party itself comprised a single line in election results tables published by news organizations. That the subject only has a single line in an election results table outside of Wikipedia implies that the subject should only have a single line in an election results table inside Wikipedia. The subject that the published works themselves actually address is the election, and the party is only addressed insofar as it is the party affiliation that one of the candidates in the election stated. Therefore that is how Wikipedia should address the knowledge, too. And indeed Wikipedia does exactly that at Gravesham (UK Parliament constituency)#Elections.
  • Synnax (AfD discussion) is a planet in a work of fiction that is not only not discussed in published works independent of the work of fiction and its author, it isn't even discussed in the work of fiction itself. The only information about the fictional planet to be found anywhere comprises a single sentence in the opening paragraph of the opening chapter of Foundation. Per the WP:FICT guidelines, the correct way to address that subject is not to give it an entire article all to itself but to mention it in an article with a broader scope, such as list of minor Foundation universe planets.
  • The school band and jazz combos (including Three Blind Mice) that Bill Clinton played for do not satisfy the WP:MUSIC criteria. Their only mentions in published works independent of the band are trivial ones, in biographies of Bill Clinton, which are not in-depth articles on the bands themselves.5 Therefore that is how Wikipedia should address those subjects: as mentions in Bill Clinton, not with articles in their own rights.
  • The Electras, a garage band whose bassist was John Kerry and who only sold 500 copies of one album[1], has had more published works written about it than Bill Clinton's bands have. However, it does not satisfy any of the WP:MUSIC secondary criteria, and most of what has been written about the band is in reference to how expensive copies of its albums became as a result of Kerry's political career. Again the information is best presented by Wikipedia in the same manner as it is presented outside of Wikipedia. The band is only discussed tangentially, in relation to John Kerry, outside of Wikipedia, and so should only be discussed as a sub-topic within John Kerry inside Wikipedia. (Because it is a sub-topic, per Wikipedia:Redirect there should be a redirect from the sub-topic title to the article containing the sub-topic.)
  • Individual McDonald's restaurants that fail to satisfy the WP:CORP criteria (as most, and probably all, of them do) do not warrant having their own articles.6 Those that are documented in published works (whose sources are independent of McDonald's and the restaurants) at all, are not documented in depth, as anything other than business directory listings. The verifiable information that there is, after business directory listing information is excluded, about those individual restaurants belongs collected together in McDonald's restaurants, an article whose wider scope encompasses all of the restaurants.

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Jerry Osborne (2004-07-16). "Kerry's garage band draws rare interest". Chicago Sun-Times.  Check date values in: |date= (help)

See also[edit]