Wikipedia:Every snowflake is unique

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They all look the same, but each one has its own allure

A collection of articles about cookie-cutter items, where each article contains a distilled compilation of the elements that distinguish it from the other similar items, would be highly valuable knowledge for the reader interested in comparing them. This situation is typical for commercial products in the same category, geographic places reported at local media, historical records, Hollywood blockbusters and direct-to-video films, fictional characters, obscure branches of popular culture subjects.... An encyclopedic treatment of these items is difficult, but not impossible. Articles should strive to report what is unique and most significant about each instance of the class.

Creating unique snowflakes is done by trimming technical or statistics tables to the minimum and creating a Reception or Commentary section with the most juicy bits of the professional critical reviews; taking both actions would achieve an encyclopedic article.

Proposed criterion[edit]

Please read also the introduction of this essay.
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The major criterion to distinguish "snowflake" unique content from run-of-the-mill content is the "critical commentary" test:

Has the item merited comments that suppose a value judgment or elaborate critique by critics? (i.e. information other than a routine description of its properties). If several reliable sources have done so, that's enough basis for the presumption of notability given per notability guidelines (WP:GNG).

This criterion recognizes that value judgements from professional critics and journalists at reliable sources meet the criteria for verifiability. Whether enough of them are available to establish notability is up to the editors to assess, but if the subject is not notable then the reviews should be merged into another relevant article to help continuous improvement of the encyclopedia (and keep it growing). If there is enough commentary to write a meaningful Reception or Analysis section, keep the article and write the section if it's not yet there.

In summary: keep the article as a stub if someone else has cared to write about it; merge to a group article on the same topic if all the verifiable content is from primary references.

Limits[edit]

Wikipedia is concerned with enduring notability since Wikipedia is not a newspaper. The inclusion criteria favor events and items that have a significant lasting effect or widespread impact, and discourages those with routine coverage (professional content that doesn't provide enough context for the topic) or without in depth or continued coverage in reporting.

Editorial judgment should be exerted when evaluating the significance that critical commentary provides; coverage should provide the reasons why this snowflake stands out among the class of other similar items. If the sources are not significant enough to establish notability, the content could still be merged with proper weight into another article.

Conflict of interest is also relevant here. Review sites with a reputation for independent fact-checking should be preferred, for there is the possibility that professional reviewers can be influenced by the original source of information through press releases or advertising.

Rationale[edit]

Arguments for deletion frequently use the Run-of-the-mill justification against an article with references, but Run-of-the-mill is an essay and thus not a "consensual policy that editors should normally follow". The bar for inclusion with respect to notability is significant coverage from third party reliable sources; arguments that the item has nothing innovative or review sites cannot provide notability can't stand against well-established sources.

This essay is not completely against the ideas in run-of-the-mill. Wikipedia is not a directory may apply if the only available information was a dull list of technical, geographical or chronological data. And if the only information for the item were copies of press releases, that wouldn't be enough as those are self-published. But as long as the item has been subject to critical review, that's enough to establish notability. Compare with Notability criteria for books.

So per Wikipedia is not a paper encyclopedia, every "repetitive" item that complies with these requirements can have its own article with the only precondition that someone is willing to write it - and that there's no consensus to merge its contents into a more encompassing article for a class of similar items.

AfD discussions[edit]

Articles for deletion (AfD) discussions are where editors try to build consensus for the proper course of action to take on the current article's content. Several "factions" such as WP:Inclusionism or WP:Deletionism have emerged placing emphasis on different aspects of the guidelines that should be used. Editors are expected to state arguments for their preferred outcome and explain how those arguments apply to the particular content.

This essay is aligned with the Exclusionism perspective. Articles in bad form but with valuable content shouldn't be deleted, they should be trimmed from bad content while keeping good and verifiable content (even if the result is a stub). A strict interpretation of WP:GNG allows snowflake articles to survive, since product review sites can be viewed as reliable, independent sources. The trick is to avoid using them as a source of raw data and keep the gems found in the form of critical commentary. In cases where there is too few information even for a stub, the deletion discussion should still take into account the possibility to keep the verifiable content in a related article in which it is relevant.

The problems with run-of-the-mill criteria[edit]

This essay is explicitly shaped to address some of the arguments at Run-of-the-mill (a.k.a. WP:COOKIE). WP:COOKIE is often used in AfDs against articles with reliable sources stating that they are "not different enough from its peers". These arguments are subjective and inconsistently applied.

  • This has caused inconsistent coverage of individual consumer articles, primarily in electronics (where online coverage is wide)
  • This has caused double standards between different types of items. Movies and video-game characters are regularly included, while webcomics and electronics are regularly disputed. A common set of rules should be applied with criteria grounded on wp:V, unless a particular class has an additional consensual guideline (i.e. books).

Advantages of following this advice[edit]

  • Utility. A description of items in the same category (either as tables or separate articles) is encyclopedic if it centers around a compilation of the salient properties of each item: it provides insight difficult to get using secondary sources alone, as it summarizes the best information to be found in those.
  • Practicality. Following this guideline would alleviate the wp:AfD list by giving a clear criterion for one of the WP:DEL#REASONs for deletion based on lack of notability: if several experts have expressed professional judgement, there's no support for editors to assert lack of notability based only on the available sources.
  • Clarity. wp:NOTCATALOG is usually invoked through subjective reasons from relevance, notoriety or impact. This criterium instead gives a clear, objective test: Raw data is not enough for notability, existence of professional judgment is. It also points to the primary information that should be retrieved from those sources; not all the data but the valuable insights.
    • Of course the value judgments included this way should be attributed to the source in the article, not stated as fact.
    • This has the additional advantage that it will separate the wheat from the chaff - items which are indeed notable will be the ones more likely to have multiple independent reviewers giving judgment values than truly run-of-the-mill or on-the-shelf products.
  • An added value of this policy is that it helps preserve content because Unity makes strength: lots of snowflakes create a wp:snowball (and the bigger it is, the better chance to survive hell).
    • Common sense tells us that each stand-alone article may not provide much information on its own beyond what a list of links to reviews would do;
    • but a well cross-referenced collection of articles for items in the same class, each of them addressing the salient characteristics of each item in encyclopedic way, would be an invaluable resource beyond what can be achieved with a single article for the whole class or comparison table for items. This is the reason why almanacs exist, after all.
  • Slow growth. wp:NOTDONE Deleting imperfect content goes against the Wikipedia process to achieve great articles. It is not our policy to expect immaculate accounts of a wide topic to spring forth fully formed. Deletion does not assist in such cases because it destroys the details as they appear. [1] Allowing this small bits of valuable information would help in compiling enough information about that class of items, which would otherwise be lost if each individual article was deleted.

Reasons against Snowflake articles, and their rebuttals[edit]

  • Routine. A common replie against the SNOWFLAKE criterion is that professional reviewers (of electronics, restaurants, travel guides...) do routinely write this kind of content, and this makes the source somehow non-reliable or the item non-notable. If that argument were true, we couldn't have many scientific, mathematic or history articles, since scientists and historians do routinely write papers about those topics and those papers are the sources used for the article.
    • Look it the other way: if a whole class of professional writers review perform routine reviews of products, it's work for an encyclopedia to compile and document their more relevant findings in a useful and systematic way. The key to evaluate significant coverage is that available sources can place each item in context.
  • Obscurity (e.g. "the topic is an electronic device marketed only for a few months or years")
    • Editors may say that "we should wait until this gets traction and more sources report it".
      • This is valid per wp:crystalball, but not when the article already contains enough solid references, as notability is not temporary.
      • This is also not a solid defense as WP is not paper.
  • Saturation. If we apply the criteria of WP:N in its strictest sense we could add thousands of electronic consumer items.[2]
    • So? Wikipedia is not paper, so there's room for those. And having them treated and categorized in an encyclopedic way would be highly valuable.
  • Navigation - lots of twisty little articles, all alike, are hard to navigate.
    • If you have a mess consisting of valuable items the correct solution is to tidy them up, not throw them away. Navigation templates, lists and categories are effectively used to group related articles for better finding. Popular topics will be more linked to and obscure topics will be harder to find unless you have the exact article name. And for a reader who has the exact name of what she's looking for, chances are that will be better served by a small encyclopedic article than by a blank page.

Examples of snowflake articles[edit]

Up240.com snowflakes wiki.jpg

Some articles that can be created with enough reliable sources can be:

  • A low budget, independent film that has achieved bad reviews but got a fan base of followers
  • A street for which several independent reporters have created in-depth articles.
  • A restaurant appearing in many reviews or tourist guides from different publishers, each guide giving analysis in the form of a written quality review describing its merits and shortcomings (not just 'stars' or similar range assessments).
  • An artist whose work has been directly reviewed at several specialized magazines.
  • A gadget - technical product that has appeared at several hands-on review articles (not mere technical specifications).
  • A video game receiving (brief) appraisal from several reviewers.
  • A special episode of a TV series that received particular attention from critics.
  • A bishop of a major denomination.
  • A mayor of a medium-sized city.

How to handle Snowflake articles[edit]

What to include[edit]

In summary, Wikipedia can act as a specialized reference work or compendium, and no information is too detailed for the "sum of all human knowledge" as long as it's provided as a summary of verifiable information.

  • Lots of small, single-item articles are compatible with the Wikipedia pillars and guidelines. The "online encyclopedia" pillar states that Wikipedia "incorporates elements of general and specialized encyclopedias, almanacs, and gazetteers."
    • Note the almanacs where tabular information is welcome.
    • And the specialized - not only general public information can be added.
    • Even when single stubs are too small to be kept, they can be merged in a catch-all article covering a common topic. From Wikipedia is not a directory: Merged groups of small articles based on a core topic are certainly permitted.
  • Media products such as books, films, music and artists usually contain a Reception section containing significant (i.e. nontrivial) commentary stating the attributed opinions of reputable reviewers. If there are enough of these sources to write a comprehensive, neutral section this should be enough to create a differentiated "snowflake" article that summarizes how the item influenced the world when it was released.

What NOT to include[edit]

  • There will be items and products that have not received critical commentary nor significant independent coverage; the only available sources for them are press releases and self-published content. Those are not beautiful snowflakes, but authentic run-of-the-mill; and should be deleted per WP:NOT.
  • This essay doesn't apply to BLP as they have a special treatment under WP policy.

Choice between Linked Snowflake Articles vs Primary Article on Topic[edit]

Sometimes, lots of small articles tied together by a navigation list or category will be the best structure, sometimes it won't.

  • Category:Restaurants in New York City wouldn't work as a single article because each restaurant in it is notable, but the topic itself is not.
  • On the other hand, ARM architecture wouldn't work as a collection of articles for each core architecture (except for the major ones like ARM7, ARM9, ARM11); their differences are not significant enough, and notability is achieved by their similarities and common history. In this case it makes sense to create a single article where this common notable information can be centralized.

This decision is an art. But you don't have to get it right the first time; create a catalog of individual articles, since a primary article can always be created later, and small articles can be merged into it if that's what makes more sense given their current state. Conversely, if you begin with a big list, major items can be latter forked into stand-alone articles of their own. (See an explanatory example here)

As general criteria:

  • Create a primary article containing several X if "a collection of X" is a notable topic on its own as covered by reliable sources.
  • Create separate articles for each single X item that has enough reliable sources directly addressing it.
  • If you have both primary and individual articles, link to each individual article with a {{main}} template from the corresponding section of the primary article.