Wikipedia:Avoid Parkinson's Bicycle Shed Effect
|This essay contains the advice or opinions of one or more Wikipedia contributors. Essays are not Wikipedia policies or guidelines. Some essays represent widespread norms; others only represent minority viewpoints.|
|This page in a nutshell: Don't get hung up on minor details.|
In his 1957 book Parkinson's Law, or the Pursuit of Progress, C. Northcote Parkinson describes a committee that met to discuss the construction of a new atomic power plant. The agenda included three items: approving the plans for the plant, discussing a new bicycle shed for employees, and the refreshment expenses of the Welfare Committee. The committee spent two and a half minutes discussing the highly complex power plant, forty-five lively minutes debating the bicycle shed, and over an hour furiously debating the refreshments – the matter was eventually left unresolved and deferred to a further meeting.
Sadly, this effect can be noted on Wikipedia. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, and theoretically every Wikipedian is working to build it. However, many Wikipedians find their energies diverted by resolving disputes, or commenting on policy issues, or playing politics. These areas should be seen as the "bicycle shed", whilst the encyclopedia should be seen as "Nuclear safety".
In articles, this problem manifests itself in the way an article covers the topic. Sometimes articles fail to stick to the main article topic, discussing minor and tangential aspects of the topic, such as usages in popular culture, a list of examples, etc. This soon becomes the focus of the article. It is expected that articles are comprehensive, but they should also balance the information and give weight to areas of discussion in a neutral manner, focusing on presenting the description and application of the topic as the main bulk of the article.
Perhaps the biggest offender for the "bicycle shed" is the Incidents section of the Administrator's Noticeboard. While these play an important part in defusing difficult situations and keeping discussions on track, it also has a tendency to attract drama like honey attracts flies. If you spend a lot of time at these noticeboards, and commenting on every situation, you might get the impression that Wikipedia is a very disruptive place. Go and find an unloved article, and improve it, however, and you may discover that's actually far from the case.
- Wikipedia:Article development
- Parkinson's Law of Triviality article
- AfD debate on the article Color of the bikeshed that serves ironically to illustrate the concept
- Wikipedia:Don't edit war over the colour of templates