Wikipedia:Centralized discussion/Image placeholders/Archive 2

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The female version of the placeholder box. It is hyperlinked to an image upload form targeted to new users.
The male version of the placeholder box.

Replace this image female and Replace this image male are the latest versions of placeholder boxes that have been systematically added to 50,789 living biography articles lacking photos of their central subjects. The boxes link to a specialized upload form and license template system soliciting pertinent photos or illustrations from readers.

Some of these placeholder boxes have been removed from articles, and concerns and objections have been put forward. These include:

  • The addition of these boxes violates the WP:SELF guideline, which argues that reference to Wikipedia's editable nature should generally not take place within articles.
  • Most readers would not be able or willing to help; the box detracts from the article for the vast majority of readers, while being useful for only a very few.
  • By appealing specifically to readers who are not familiar with Wikipedia's approach to copyright, the system will lead to an inordinate number of copyright violations; the fact that most uploaders are presently experienced editors is a good thing.
  • The system is redundant; there are already initiatives and sidebar links to encourage the uploading of photos.
  • The boxes are unsightly, resembling advertisements found on commercial websites with for-profit motives.
  • The boxes suggest the article is inadequate; Wikipedia is always a work-in-progress, but an article without a photo should not be considered inadequate (as an article that lacks references is).

Proponents of the system have stated that the system is already effective at soliciting new photos. They are in the process of documenting this claim. They state:

  • More than 430 free photos (and illustrations) have been uploaded and filtered in Category:Reviewed images of people replacing placeholders.
  • The simplified upload form is more user-friendly than Wikipedia's existing system (at least for new users).
  • The form has a system built in that eases filtering of resulting photos and illustrations for copyvios.
  • Concerns regarding appearance could be addressed by an understated redesign.
  • Placeholders are consistent with the philosophy of Wikipedia that encourages everyone to participate, new users especially.

Should the addition of this box be allowed? Does the placeholder system and graphic image need to be improved to satisfy policies and guidelines for inclusion? Is it appropriate to some kinds of biographies, but not to others?

How we got here

Prior discussion has taken place in various corners: user talk pages, image talk pages, article talk pages, and at some wikiprojects.

From April 9 to 11, 2008 there was a "Proposal to suspend all further use of this graphic on article pages pending a centralized discussion" (archived here) at Image talk:Replace this image female.svg. The proposal passed with 18 editors in agreement, 12 editors in disagreement, and 2 abstentions.

User:Kleinzach closed the previous discussion on April 11 and provided a thorough summary in the section Summing up. (The summary is recommended reading; it's nice and succinct.) We then began this centralized discussion. Pending the outcome of this discussion, some editors have agreed to suspend their addition or removal of this placeholder box as we look toward a broader consensus.

For more background, see An overview of image placeholders below.


As agreed, discussion of the 'Questions' and 'Proposals' concluded on Wednesday, April 23 (12.00 GMT/UTC).


Note by Northwesterner1

We are now determining what the future course of action should be. Is there consensus for Proposal 1 to remove all placeholders? If not, can we modify the system to deal with the main objections? How can we reach agreement about how to move forward?

I disagree with this unsigned note by Northwesterner1. The conclusions of the centralized discussion should be based on that discussion, not on another one. I don't think the results of Proposal 1 (in which more than 50 people participated) should be put aside by a group of only six or seven participants. --Kleinzach (talk) 00:07, 28 April 2008 (UTC)
Editors who have not followed this discussion appear to be confused about where we are at. (See Talk page: Current situation). I added this note to the top summary in order to clarify the current state of the centralized discussion. I supported and continue to support Proposal 1. However, it should be clear to anyone following this page that we do not yet have consensus about whether we've reached consensus on Proposal 1. Until that consensus is confirmed, I believe editors should not take any action such as removing placeholders from articles or adding placeholders to articles. We should be patient and wait until the process is complete. In my view, the note I added is an accurate reflection of the current state of the centralized discussion. If other editors agree with me, the statement that Kleinzach has removed moved should be re-added moved back to the final paragraph of the summary at the top of this page. I don't believe it has to be signed if it represents a collective opinion about where we are at. Northwesterner1 (talk) 00:40, 28 April 2008 (UTC)
I did not remove what you wrote. I added a subheading. In my opinion what you wrote did not represent a "collective opinion". --Kleinzach (talk) 00:57, 28 April 2008 (UTC)
I apologize. I should have said "move" not "remove." We'll see whether it represents a collective opinion based on what other editors think. This is part of the normal Wikipedia:BOLD, revert, discuss cycle. I did nothing wrong here, and neither did you.Northwesterner1 (talk) 01:02, 28 April 2008 (UTC)
Fair enough. Apology accepted. --Kleinzach (talk) 01:20, 28 April 2008 (UTC)
I see no one else has offered an opinion. I wish you would reconsider or at least add your own text to the end of the summary. By any definition of "ended," I don't think we can say this discussion has ended until we have drafted and approved a conclusion statement. For editors just coming to this page, the current summary is confusing. It's also inaccurate. Whether we agreed to end discussion or not, it clearly hasn't. That's just a fact.Northwesterner1 (talk) 18:31, 29 April 2008 (UTC)

Structure of the discussion

How shall we develop this discussion? Should we do it issue by issue? --Kleinzach (talk) 07:49, 11 April 2008 (UTC)

I like this approach, yes.-Pete (talk) 05:57, 12 April 2008 (UTC)
We already have a lot of text here, so can I make a plea here for making the discussion as structured as possible? That way newcomers/late joiners will be able to find their way more easily into the debate and not be put off by rambling, off topic threads. The more focused we are, the more likely we are to progress towards an effective consensus. Thanks. --Kleinzach (talk) 23:42, 12 April 2008 (UTC)
Agreed. I would suggest newcomers start with the overview at the top of this page, which includes a link to this helpful summary of the previous discussion. Further discussion on specific points is proceeding below, and at the bottom of this page I've added a Proposals section where editors can express their opinion on concrete actions we could take.Northwesterner1 (talk) 07:34, 13 April 2008 (UTC)


I'm concerned by the lack of participation. Do those who participated in the earlier, more procedural decision (whether to interrupt image placement pending discussion) feel that they've already had their say? We should be sure that those who are interested express their views here. Also, have we done enough outreach to broaden the discussion? I think contacting the Footballers and Opera singers and Oregon WikiProjects (which discussed the issue) would be worthwhile, also the Free Images WikiProject, and possibly writing something up for the Wikipedia Sign Post. (Something that has affected 50k articles, and stands to affect many more, seems worthy of a Signpost mention to me.) Thoughts? Should I do some of this outreach? Is anybody else doing it, or interested in doing it? (I think our conclusion, whatever it is, should reflect the views of as broad a group as possible.) -Pete (talk) 05:57, 12 April 2008 (UTC)

Some of the initial heat and urgency may have gone out of the debate, but this may be a good thing if we are going to work for a rational solution. This more detailed second stage of the discussion may develop slowly. I've already notified Free images and the Classical music projects (Classical music, Contemporary music and Opera) about the centralized discussion here. Northwesterner1 has covered the Biography project. If you like to add something to the Wikipedia Sign Post - or anything else you thing is worthwhile - that will be great. --Kleinzach (talk) 08:30, 12 April 2008 (UTC)
I also think many people feel like they've already "voted." It's a shame to see low participation here, since the outcome of that discussion was split right down the middle. Would it be appropriate to post a link to this discussion on the talk page of everyone who commented in the prior discussion?Northwesterner1 (talk) 10:06, 12 April 2008 (UTC)
I posted here:
Northwesterner1 (talk) 10:43, 12 April 2008 (UTC)‎
I'm happy to be overruled, but in my opinion it's not necessary to post directly to all previous participants. Putting something in the Signpost will complete our notification process. Having more people involved does not necessarily help in forming our conclusions. (BTW the result of the vote was 18:12 which is not exactly "split right down the middle".) --Kleinzach (talk) 11:23, 12 April 2008 (UTC)
I think a broad consensus will be needed, given that this issue affects so many articles. Pete, I think you should run with the signpost notification if you're willing. We may also want to consider setting a defined time limit or some other method by which we might know when this discussion is complete.Northwesterner1 (talk) 07:45, 13 April 2008 (UTC)
Please allow reasonable time for people to learn that the issue has been raised. For example, I've been online quite a bit in last two days, but just chanced on a mention of the matter a few minutes ago. Wanderer57 (talk)

<outdent>Signpost article: I pitched it here, it's technically past the deadline but I haven't gotten any response about whether that's a problem, and it seems that the content is still under discussion. On that page you will find a link to my draft. I think if a couple other people endorse the draft (with some editing if you like, feel free), I think that would enhance the chances of it getting published. Just a hunch. -Pete (talk) 04:32, 15 April 2008 (UTC)

Thanks. I've done some editing. --Kleinzach (talk) 08:54, 15 April 2008 (UTC)
It appears well done to me; fair and balanced overview. DoubleBlue (Talk) 14:43, 15 April 2008 (UTC)

I realised that no-one had advertised this discussion on the mailing list, so I've just done so. --Cherry blossom tree 17:08, 18 April 2008 (UTC)

Good move. I find there is sorely only a few people involved in this when there are many more players regarding the outcome. Make note on your WikiProjects. Guroadrunner (talk) 21:23, 21 April 2008 (UTC)

This discussion was briefly mentioned on the most recent (episode 46, I think) Wikipedia Weekly podcast. One person said she was unsure, one said the placeholders were ugly but then the discussion moved over to discussing other image-related issues. --Cherry blossom tree 10:20, 23 April 2008 (UTC)

I was completely unaware that this was going on until just now. Did I miss the discussion? Wizardman 22:11, 24 April 2008 (UTC)

Unfortunately, I'd say yes, you did. We had a discussion about how and when to end it, and determined the 23rd was a good date. I'd encourage you to look over the summaries (nearly all of which are complete) and, if you have something to contribute that hasn't been covered, say it; my general understanding of the "decision" is that the use of placeholders is not approved, but there are a number of ways in which the system could be improved, that would make the system more acceptable to some participants. So I think that leaves some room for important ongoing work. Hope that helps, -Pete (talk) 22:14, 24 April 2008 (UTC)
Okay. So technically, could I go and start removing the placeholders or is it not that simple? Wizardman 22:16, 24 April 2008 (UTC)
According to my understanding of Proposal 1, which was supported by 35 people and opposed by 17, yes. I will confess I'm not entirely clear on the technicalities of all this. There may be a semi-automated way to remove them, or some kind of further discussion about how to implement something like that, for all I know. But I believe you would be on solid ground in removing any instance of the placeholders discussed here. -Pete (talk) 22:34, 24 April 2008 (UTC)
It's probably of note here that User:Wizardman removed approximately 100 placeholders between 22:55 and 23:48 24 April citing this discussion. I reiterate what was said afterwards that this discussion has not concluded and should not be cited as a reason for doing anything. Removal of individual instances with a rationale related to the article itself is, as always, the way to deal with individual, inappropriate instances of the placeholder. DoubleBlue (Talk) 16:18, 25 April 2008 (UTC)
According to my understanding of Wikipedia:Consensus, the answer would be no. --Cherry blossom tree 23:10, 24 April 2008 (UTC)
Well, in any event, the principle of be bold would permit Wizardman to do whatever he feels is appropriate (especially considering he was not involved in the discussion about temporarily suspending the addition/removal of the placeholder.)
Cherry blossom tree, what do you feel is the best thing to do? I would guess that the following quote from WP:Consensus identifies the crux of our disagreement: "Consensus does not mean that everyone agrees with the outcome; instead, it means that everyone agrees to abide by the outcome."
It would seem that we're at a point where that condition has not been met. No deadline can force agreement, so the fact that we've passed an arbitrary deadline does not really matter in that respect. What would you propose we do to move things forward? (I think the deadline was useful, regardless, because it gave us a reason to pause and summarize discussion; even if we have to continue, we're probably in a better position to do so than we would be without that deadline.) -Pete (talk) 23:23, 24 April 2008 (UTC)
Obviously User:Wizardman is free to remove any instance of this template he wishes, just as he was before this discussion took place. I am not comfortable with any suggestion this discussion currently represents a consensus that all placeholders should be removed (I realise this isn't what you said.) Essentially, consensus means finding a position that everyone can agree with or at least accept. In this case, that means finding a position that reconciles "we need free images" and "a lot of people think placeholders are ugly" - two statements that I think more or less everyone can agree to. I think the next stage is to attempt to find such a solution (which may or may not involve placeholders in some capacity.) I could say more on this subject, but not until tomorrow. --Cherry blossom tree 23:50, 24 April 2008 (UTC)
I agree. The established method is Wikipedia:BOLD, revert, discuss cycle. There was some talk of a moratorium on adding or removing placeholders en masse but if you feel strongly about any individual instance, you should discuss it on the article's talk page. DoubleBlue (Talk) 01:31, 25 April 2008 (UTC)
Could people please stop calling them templates? While there would be some advantages to turning them into templates the resulting usability issues would probably outweigh them.Genisock2 (talk) 01:36, 25 April 2008 (UTC)
Whoa, you have not missed the discussion; it is only about to begin. The first part was a gauging of people's opinions through votes. The next step should be a developing discussion considering and altering proposals to achieve the greatest consensus and good. DoubleBlue (Talk) 01:24, 25 April 2008 (UTC)

I'd urge everybody to exercise restraint. If Wizardman wants to add any comments to any pages under a Comment after the discussion closed heading that should be fine. We've already had one of them. (I think we'll soon be archiving them so it should be soon.) The actual number of votes in the proposals is not significant so there is no reason why Wizardman shouldn't take part in the discussion. (Welcome!)

As DoubleBlue says the most important part of the discussion is about to begin. First we have to approve the summaries. Then we have to look at the consensus, the so-called 'rough consensus'. that has emerged through the discussion. IMO our objective will be to meet the concerns of the majority while offering a new point of departure to the minority, though each of us may think about this in a different way. --Kleinzach (talk) 02:41, 25 April 2008 (UTC)

Sockpuppets: Take note

Concluding the discussion (deciding the closing date)

The debate is winding down and some people have been talking about setting a closing date. Any thoughts about this? --Kleinzach (talk) 13:15, 18 April 2008 (UTC)

Your original proposal (in the archived discussion) was on April 9, 2008. I would suggest a two week window of discussion which would meen a closing on April 23, 2008. That is five days from now but it still gives plenty of time for former participants in the old discussion to contribute their opinions and for other editors to participate.Nrswanson (talk) 13:40, 18 April 2008 (UTC)
It's over when it's over. Setting dates is foolish.Genisock2 (talk) 13:42, 18 April 2008 (UTC)
I would support April 23 (mid-day GMT/UTC). I think that's reasonable. We've had over 40 participants now - that's not bad. Based on the last few days I can't see much happening between now and the 23rd. --Kleinzach (talk) 14:16, 18 April 2008 (UTC)
That seems like a fair date to me.Broadweighbabe (talk) 15:05, 18 April 2008 (UTC)
I'm not sure I understand. I thought we were supposed to work toward a consensus and it seems to have devolved into a vote. WP:POLLS, WP:NOT#DEMOCRACY. DoubleBlue (Talk) 20:32, 18 April 2008 (UTC)
The WP:POLLS page talks about polls not being a substitute for discussion -- clearly, the majority of interest here has been on the discussion, but the polls have allowed us to more easily see the viewpoints of contributors. From WP:PRACTICAL: Consensus is not unanimity. Looking around at WP:AfD for a bit will show that of the discussions which are not "No consensus," the vast majority have a minority opinion which is not convinced at the end; this can still be consensus. Genisock2's view that "It's over when it's over" seems to imply that no change in status quo can occur until unanimity is reached--if this were the case, nothing could get done on this encyclopedia. -- Myke Cuthbert (talk) 22:47, 18 April 2008 (UTC)
I agree with you but I don't see how a deadline fits into this. We should continue to discuss and work toward greater consensus. I will abide by a solution that gets developed through a process even if I'm still not satisfied but to cut off debate at an arbitrary date is not working toward consensus. As you know, AfDs with no consensus result in status quo. DoubleBlue (Talk) 23:44, 18 April 2008 (UTC)
In this case I am not sure broader consensus is going to be possible. I think the majority of people are pretty anti-image placeholder. Although wikipedia is not a democracy, upholding the status quo is sometimes in the best interest of wikipedia. Compromise and change are not necessarily always good things. I personally think that without an ending date set this debate will go on forever with no lasting resolutions.Insearchofintelligentlife (talk) 05:07, 19 April 2008 (UTC)

As someone who's spoken of "seeking a broader consensus" several times, let me clarify: I was never saying we should seek unanimity, but rather that we should broaden the number of voices in the discussion, to be sure all points of view had been heard, that we fully understood the history of the system, etc. I am now satisfied that has occurred. I am just back from 2+ days away, and see that nothing substantially new has been added to the discussion. I think it's time to set a date for conclusion. -Pete (talk) 05:25, 21 April 2008 (UTC)

Good. Three editors (including myself) have supported April 23 as the date (see above). Is that too early? My understanding that the end date is the time when we close comments and start archiving the discussion section by section. Northwesterner1 suggested summarizing each section. I don't know if he is still up for that? I don't know whether anybody else is willing to volunteer? --Kleinzach (talk) 05:40, 21 April 2008 (UTC)
Yes, I will support April 23. I like the idea of summarizing the discussion, I'm not sure if "section-by-section" is best -- it could work, but my thought would be to start a little fresher than that, and try to summarize the discussion as a whole. My outline would look roughly like this:
  • Background on where the placeholder came from (the consensus that was its starting point)
  • Description of the placeholder system and its strengths
  • Description of primary objections to placeholder system
  • Note strong opposition to semi-automated insertion of the placeholder
  • Note strong support for the solicitation of free images from readers
  • Note the things that some editors said might make the system more acceptable (even if technically difficult)
  • Recommend a one-time removal of all instances of the placeholder that were inserted by automated process. (Or maybe all instances, if it's not possible to differentiate how they were placed?)
That's my general sense of the discussion. I'd rather see something of that format, than a summary of each section. -Pete (talk) 05:55, 21 April 2008 (UTC)
I would prefer to see a two stage process. First close down the sections adding implicitly neutral summaries. Question 1 would be put to bed, then Question 2 etc. Having done that we can get to the final stage of interpreting the rough consensus of the forum.
I feel your bulleted list above is a judgement rather than a summary. It lists a number of controversial points, risking rejection from both sides. For example, in my case, while I agree with most of your points, I don't agree with all of them. (I'm not going into details because this is the obviously the wrong place.) --Kleinzach (talk) 06:20, 21 April 2008 (UTC)
I also support a April 23 date for closing the discussion. No new directions have emerged in the discussion. I have no preference as to "section" summaries or an overall summary as Pete proposes.Northwesterner1 (talk) 08:33, 21 April 2008 (UTC)
Good. As we have at least determined the date, I have announced it above. Now perhaps we can discuss the method? --Kleinzach (talk) 09:10, 21 April 2008 (UTC)
I agree now that it may be nearing time to draw this portion of the discussion to a close. I really think the next thing to do is to summarise the concerns and work toward means to address those concerns and leave most sides satisfied. DoubleBlue (Talk) 21:12, 21 April 2008 (UTC)

Best method of summarizing the discussion?

We need to adopt a way of summarizing the discussion that is rigorously accurate, fair and neutral. IMO the simplest way to do this is to do separate summaries for each section (Questions, Proposals and miscellaneous). What do people think? Is this OK, or is there a better method available that will win more general acceptance? (See also Pete's suggestion above) --Kleinzach (talk) 09:24, 21 April 2008 (UTC)

Summarizing by section seems a reasonable thing to do in any event. I think it may be worth also making a more general summary, and some recommendations, based on the section summaries. (Most significantly, the history provided by Genisock wound up buried in the discussion, but its proper place is in the introduction. Correcting that would be a good thing.) So -- can the summarizing begin now, or do we need to wait until the 23rd? -Pete (talk) 23:00, 21 April 2008 (UTC)
Good. I certainly agree with doing section summaries first and then moving to a general summary/conclusion. Doing objective, accurate section summaries first will help with the end process. My suggestion would be to wait until the deadline and then firmly close all the Questions and Proposals, then do the summaries, however perhaps we can decide who will do which section now? For example who will do 'Question 1. WP:SELF: Are placeholders compatible?' ? I would be willing to do do Question 2 and/or Proposal 1 and/or Proposal 3 (depending on how many volunteers we get) as I feel I understand those sections better than some of the others. (Re. the history you refer to: why not simply move it now to an appropriate place? BTW I'd be grateful if you could copyedit it so I can understand it!) --Kleinzach (talk) 23:33, 21 April 2008 (UTC)
BTW I'd also recommend moving all the existing sections to subpages and putting all the summaries on the main page. Is that acceptable? --Kleinzach (talk) 23:57, 21 April 2008 (UTC)
I agree with moving all the content currently on this page to subpages and creating some form of summary of the discussion here. I'm also happy to pitch in with the summarising, where necessary. --Cherry blossom tree 11:51, 22 April 2008 (UTC)
I wonder if you would like to have a go at Section 10 Wikipedia:Centralized discussion/Image placeholders/Ideas for modification of the image placeholder? This is quite technical and might benefit from being done by someone who is 'pro-box'. --Kleinzach (talk) 23:02, 22 April 2008 (UTC)
I'm not sure what you mean by 'pro-box' but I don't consider myself any more than moderately technical. --Cherry blossom tree 23:28, 22 April 2008 (UTC)
I'll work on Q1. -Pete (talk) 14:57, 22 April 2008 (UTC)
I'd suggest a word limit for each of the Questions so we get a balance. How about 350 words? (My summing up of the initial discussion was 800 words). The Questions that didn't take off could obviously be shorter. Also i wonder if we should make Section 10 Wikipedia:Centralized discussion/Image placeholders/Ideas for modification of the image placeholder into Question 8 to remove the anomaly. If so what should it be called? --Kleinzach (talk) 23:14, 22 April 2008 (UTC)
I think any word limit should be suggested, rather than enforced. I agree with encouraging brevity, though. --Cherry blossom tree 23:28, 22 April 2008 (UTC)
Well, yes, suggested not enforced if you want to put it that way . . . but more important is 350 words the right number? --Kleinzach (talk) 23:42, 22 April 2008 (UTC)
The two I've done have landed in at about 300-350 words. They were fairly lengthy sections, but I suspect that proposal 1, for example, might require more. --Cherry blossom tree 15:48, 23 April 2008 (UTC)

Signing up for the summaries

Approving the summaries

The summaries look good! (Obviously a talented group of editors here!) Maybe we should check them now? if anyone has any suggestions/criticisms/objections about the summaries they should make them known here as soon as possible. (Pete: Is the Q1 summary a bit on the long side at 510 words?) Meanwhile I am getting on with Q2 (sorry for the delay). Best. --Kleinzach (talk) 23:48, 24 April 2008 (UTC)

They have no validity do the heavy involvement of their authors in the pseudo debate. Purely out of interest how many times does one have to disagree with a proposal for it to count? And since when was no consensus counted as agreement with a proposal?Genisock2 (talk) 00:07, 25 April 2008 (UTC)
Kleinzach: I dunno -- is it too long? If so, fix it! I figured, better to err on the side of too long than too short. Feel free to whittle it down. -Pete (talk) 00:13, 25 April 2008 (UTC)
Maybe remove 'Other points'? After all the suggestion to change WP:SELF is not directly relevant. --Kleinzach (talk) 01:33, 25 April 2008 (UTC)
Genisock, you had -- and still have -- as much opportunity as anyone else to write or edit the summaries. If you choose not to engage in that, I have a hard time seeing how that differs from opting out of the process. I do think there may be a legitimate question about whether or not we've reached consensus -- but if you are committed to a resolution, I am confident you will contribute to finding a way to move forward, rather than simply stating that we haven't reached consensus. As far as I'm concerned, you can't in good faith hold your own vote "hostage" -- you need to work with the rest of us to find something that will be acceptable to everyone. If you should choose not to, the importance of your opinion diminishes greatly in my view. -Pete (talk) 00:13, 25 April 2008 (UTC)
Voteing has nothing to do with finding something that is acceptable to everyone. I have tried to debate. Others have tried to vote and enforce a pure voting process (uninformed voting at that).Genisock2 (talk) 00:22, 25 April 2008 (UTC)
A number of us have tried to debate. If I understand you correctly, you believe we have no consensus yet. Once again: what do you propose to do about that? How can we reach consensus? -Pete (talk) 00:39, 25 April 2008 (UTC)
Oh you can't. there will aways be to many kneejerk object to any change to "their" article(s) to prevent that. Making the image more aesthetically pleasing would probably reduce the complaints somewhat. If we could find a way to get people to actually educate themselves about the system that would probably help but since it include a few features that I don't expect anyone below the level of advanced admin to know about that would be problematical (plus a background that requires a reasonable knowledge of copyright and free content philosophy to make sense of). Still even with those barriers it would be nice to find a way to get people to make an effortGenisock2 (talk) 01:02, 25 April 2008 (UTC)
I don't believe there has been a true discussion yet. There were votes and any attempts to discuss were sent to "Side comments" as they were outside the main focus. I mentioned in a previous section that discussion toward consensus should be the next step. Oh and I'm not sure a vote count is terribly productive but Geni's views were pretty clear whether they were preceded by a bolded vote or not. DoubleBlue (Talk) 01:46, 25 April 2008 (UTC)
Let's be clear about this. We have been at pains to keep a large discussion coherent. For that reason we encouraged participation in in-depth consideration of the issues in the 'Question' sections and discouraged distracting, diverging arguments in the proposals (because they would neither be seen or found there by interested readers).
What we've been doing so far is guage opinions. We now have to interpret the consensus which has emerged - it is undoubtedly and clearly there) - and make the necessary decisions. Perhaps you'll regard that as the "true discussion"? --Kleinzach (talk) 03:03, 25 April 2008 (UTC)

I'm sure we will be soon talking about 'consensus' and how WP policies apply to this discussion, but let's approve the summaries first, OK? --Kleinzach (talk) 01:27, 25 April 2008 (UTC)

Kleinzach, I think that's what we're doing. Genisock questioned the legitimacy of the summaries, but has not yet provided any specific concerns about them. The summaries will only be useful if those fully participating in the process feel they are fair. So, from where I sit, Genisock needs to make it clear whether he intends to participate, and if so, needs to be more specific about what problems the summaries have.
DoubleBlue, I can't speak for the others, but in the section I summarized, I counted !votes whether or not they were made "boldly at the beginning of a line." When someone's position was clear from their rhetoric, I counted that as a !vote. (I discounted Broadweighbabe's since she said elsewhere she wanted to recuse herself.) There were two borderline cases, which I noted in the summary.
If you suspect other summarizers were less diligent, why not just ask them -- or if you don't feel you can trust them, double-check their work? -Pete (talk) 01:57, 25 April 2008 (UTC)
I apologise. I misunderstood your comments above on my first reading that you meant that Geni had not made her views known; now I see you were only speaking about not participating in writing summaries. I have read over some of the summaries and they seemed fair. DoubleBlue (Talk) 02:21, 25 April 2008 (UTC)
No harm done -- thanks for explaining though! -Pete (talk) 19:49, 25 April 2008 (UTC)

By the way, I am working on the history section. It is just taking a little longer than I expected and I have had a busy RL week. DoubleBlue (Talk)


The summary of Proposal 1 was blanked here and reverted by Johnbod. Is a warning appropriate or should further action be taken? We have come to (potentially) the most difficult part of the discussion - it's essential that the opinions of all participants are respected. --Kleinzach (talk) 03:26, 25 April 2008 (UTC)

I'd just leave it myself. Johnbod (talk) 10:16, 25 April 2008 (UTC)
Your position is that the summeries are simply opinions? Good.Geni 16:48, 25 April 2008 (UTC)
What? No, my position is that though your edit was disruptive, I don't see the need to take the matter further if there are no similar edits. I am glad to see youy have joined the discussion here, as I suggested. Johnbod (talk) 18:12, 25 April 2008 (UTC)
That comment wasn't addressed towards you. Look at the indentations.Genisock2 (talk) 18:20, 25 April 2008 (UTC)

Genisock2 has now been moving my comments in Section 12 here. I think the intention - as always - is to disrupt this discussion. --Kleinzach (talk) 00:18, 26 April 2008 (UTC)

Genisock2 has now blanked my comment here. --Kleinzach (talk) 00:37, 26 April 2008 (UTC)
Um so moveing is now blanking. That is an ah interesting interpretation. Your revert did however remove my comment.Genisock2 (talk) 00:53, 26 April 2008 (UTC)

Straightforward Question

For Geni and anyone else with concerns... Do you believe the summaries are an objective and accurate record of the discussion that transpired on each question and proposal? If not, could you please propose alternative summaries for any section that you believe is unfair? We're not asking "Do you think consensus says we should remove the placeholders?" or "Do you think the straw polls were fair?" or anything else. The discussion will continue, and you'll have plenty of opportunity to continue to state your opinion. We're just trying to get the summaries approved as a neutral record of events, the same way people on a committee might ratify the minutes of the previous meeting before beginning the next meeting.Northwesterner1 (talk) 18:45, 25 April 2008 (UTC)

I absolutely, positively think the summaries sections should be editable by anyone to improve the wording and/or sense of the archived discussion. I have not compared them all myself yet but they appear well-done and fair at first reading. DoubleBlue (Talk) 19:29, 25 April 2008 (UTC)
100% agreed. I think Kleinzach and others are just asking for this editing to occur now rather than later. If Geni or anyone believes the edit summaries are unfair as a record of the archived discussion, I think it would be useful to have the perceived inaccuracies corrected as soon as possible. Geni appears intent on casting doubt on the process by defining summaries as "simply opinions." I think a more useful definition of summaries is, well, summaries.Northwesterner1 (talk) 20:04, 25 April 2008 (UTC)
Umm no. It was Kleinzach who defined the summeries as opinions (or at least adopted a position with that as a logical endpoint).Geni 20:15, 25 April 2008 (UTC)
Please answer the straightforward question.Northwesterner1 (talk) 20:24, 25 April 2008 (UTC)
They are not accurate because they fail to consider how informed the various people involved were and how much logical thought and investigation went into that opinion. They are not records of any discussion due to the constant efforts to prevent discussion occurring. Within those limits they are good enough that at this stage it is unlikely to be worthwhile investing further resources in them.Geni 20:45, 25 April 2008 (UTC)

How do we apply WP 'Consensus' to this discussion?

We have not been able, so far, to conclude this centralized discussion. Almost all the debating since April 23 (when the discussion stage closed) has referred to WP policies on consensus. However I suggest we take time to look at the actual texts and see how they can apply to this case. If we can be a bit more precise and less POV in our approach we may be able to get closer to agreement. Do we agree that the key policy here is WP:PRACTICAL? This states:

"In situations with a deadline, a perfect compromise may not have been reached by all participants at the deadline. Nevertheless, a course of action should be chosen that is likely to satisfy the most persons (rather than merely the majority)."

My interpretation - a course of action that satisfies 86 percent is better than one that satisfies 66 percent. Reasonable enough. (What it doesn't say - to state the obvious - is that a course of action that satisfies 46 percent is better than one that satisfies 66 percent.)

What other WP texts are relevant here? Would anyone like to point us to any other policies that may be useful in this situation? Thank you.--Kleinzach (talk) 01:53, 28 April 2008 (UTC)

Thanks for your question. WP:PRACTICAL:

In practice, a lot of people look in on an issue and check to see if a (mere) majority exists in favor of their position. However, to find the actual consensus (or what it will end up as), you actually need to carefully consider the strength and quality of the arguments themselves (including any additional concerns that may have been raised along the way), the basis of objection of those who disagree, and in more complex situations, existing documentation in the project namespace should also be checked. If you are volunteering to carry out an action on the basis of rough consensus, only this thorough approach is acceptable.

Minority opinions typically reflect genuine concerns, and discussion should continue in an effort to try to negotiate the most favorable compromise that is still practical. In situations with a deadline, a perfect compromise may not have been reached by all participants at the deadline. Nevertheless, a course of action should be chosen that is likely to satisfy the most persons (rather than merely the majority).

New users who are not yet familiar with consensus should realize that a poll (if one is even held) is often more likely to be the start of a discussion than it is to be the end of one! The final course of action is usually decided upon during discussion. This is another reason for providing a rationale during a poll, not just a support. You can then engage in discussion with other contributors and work out an acceptable compromise. This can be very empowering. Provided you do your homework right, at times your opinion alone will be enough to tip the scales, or even decide the issue all on its own!

My interpretation. Numbers and polls do not show consensus. Back and forth discussion and quality of arguments are also of import. Actual consensus, though, is developed through discussion, collaboration, and compromise. DoubleBlue (Talk) 02:08, 28 April 2008 (UTC)
Well, that's a large block of text - though I see you include the quotation I made above. But yes, I agree with your interpretation and the central discussion which ended on 23 April satisfied it. (Consideration of the 'Questions' (which were not limited to the terms of reference of the discussion) did indeed precede the Proposals in order to clarify areas of (in your words) "collaboration, and compromise" and should be considered fully in the conclusions. Also note my own summary of Question 2 was in line with that interpretation, looking at ideas and opinions rather than an adversarial score card!)
There are also some relevant articles e.g. Consensus decision-making. This refers to:
"a core set of procedures which is common to most implementations of consensus decision-making" .
So it's implicit that consensus building follows a procedure, a process. Otherwise 'consensus' is just the opinion of those who shout loudest/longest. --Kleinzach (talk) 03:13, 28 April 2008 (UTC)
And what does it say that procedure is? DoubleBlue (Talk) 18:00, 28 April 2008 (UTC)
I would also add this (from WP:CONSENSUS):

Consensus among a limited group of editors can not over-ride community consensus on a wider scale. Convincing arguments are needed in order to successfully implement changes to currently established project wide practice or to document changes to established project wide practice. Convincing arguments are those that can be expected to sway the larger community.

The discussion on the closed questions and proposals has provided a convincing argument that something about the placeholders needs to change, and that a significant majority of the 50+ editors who have taken the opportunity to carefully consider the issue believe that placeholder images should not be used at all. However, in my view, this page does not yet provide a convincing argument that no placeholders of any kind are acceptable under any circumstances. In order to successfully implement this change, we need a broader consensus.Northwesterner1 (talk) 02:21, 28 April 2008 (UTC)
You don't say where your quotation come from, but it certainly looks like a 'double edged sword' to me. Which group of editors is limited? The centralized discussion or the 'Moving Forward' group?
The proposition that (quote) "something about the placeholders needs to change" never came up in the debate as far as I know. Can you give me a reference? My understanding is that the placeholder as an element on the article page (defined as a graphic occupying space intended for a future image) was overwhelmingly rejected by the central discussion. --Kleinzach (talk) 03:32, 28 April 2008 (UTC)
Sorry, that quotation is also from WP:CONSENSUS. I believe the "Moving Forward" section is not a "splinter group" but is in fact part of the process of concluding the centralized discussion. The editors who have commented in "Moving Forward" are not empowered to overrule or ignore other participants in the centralized discussion, just as all participants in the centralized discussion are not empowered to overrule any wider Wikipedia community consensus. The proposition that "something about the placeholders needs to change" is based on my understanding of the totality of the discussion that has occurred here. Proposal 1 has strong majority support but no clear consensus; Proposal 2 has strong consensus. If I were to conclude the discussion today, I would say, "This discussion ended with consensus that something about the placeholders needs to change but no clear consensus as to what that change should be." Rather than conclude with such a verdict, we should continue the discussion until we do have a clear consensus. I believe this is both theoretically sound (based on my reading of WP:Consensus and WP:Polling) and tactically sound; if we don't have a rock-solid consensus, the decision of this group of editors will not be respected by the community at large. I agree that consensus here is leaning against the use of any placeholder in any form, but I don't believe a strong working consensus has been reached on this point. Pete, Jaksmata, and I all supported Proposal 1, but we do not share your understanding that placeholders have been "overwhelming rejected". (See below).Northwesterner1 (talk) 04:28, 28 April 2008 (UTC)
The centralized discussion was widely notified, not only in the Centralized discussion infobox but also on RFC, The Signpost, relevant projects etc. It attracted more than 50 participants before it ended on 23 April. Who was notified about the 'Moving Forward' discussion? How many people took part in the discussions? We should keep this in perspective. --Kleinzach (talk) 06:18, 28 April 2008 (UTC)
I don't agree that the centralized discussion has ended. I believe discussion on the fact-finding questions and the proposals has concluded but that the process of interpreting that conclusion, including building a consensus around a concrete course of action, is continuing. This discussion is still listed at WP:RFC, WP:CENT, etc., and presumably it is on the watchlists of interested editors. I'd say everyone is notified. As for how many people are participating in the "Moving Forward" discussion, it appears to me to be proceeding at about the same pace, with the same number of editors and edits per day, as any other part of the discussion. For example, 8 editors commented under the combined headers of "Concluding the discussion (deciding the closing date)" and "Best method of summarizing the discussion?" while 10 editors have commented under the header "Moving forward." I don't see evidence for your "splinter group" theory.Northwesterner1 (talk) 06:27, 28 April 2008 (UTC)
I understand that Kleinzach believes the previous stage of this discussion was the discussion and I disagree and call it a pre-discussion poll but, if we take the previous stage as the discussion then the artificial deadline is inappropriate. Deadlines are barely appropriate for AfDs and RfAs and are certainly not appropriate for developing policy. Clearly, the fact that discussion continues shows that the discussion is not complete. I don't believe that people who saw the previous discussion and had any real interest in developing a consensus have refrained from checking in on the progress of this discussion just because it has been two weeks since discussion began. If you do, then feel free to publicise this next stage of discussion is going on. I believe that the more contributors to the discussion, the better chance at working out a reasonable solution. DoubleBlue (Talk) 17:55, 28 April 2008 (UTC)
  • Regarding the deadline issue, can people clarify if this was an artificial deadline or whether there is an outside body forcing the issue? For example, previous deadlines have been imposed by Jimbo and the Foundation, and others are informed by process, such as WP:AFD. Normal practise amongst Wikipedian's is that there is no real deadline in other discussions, isn't it? Hiding T 10:27, 29 April 2008 (UTC)
This was an artificial deadline decided above at #Concluding the discussion (deciding the closing date), at a point when the conversation was not going anywhere new. You can see from the discussion in that section and from what has happened since then that there is some ambiguity about what the deadline signifies or whether it was appropriate. Some believe it signified an end to conversation and a time to tally up votes. Others disagree with any use of a deadline and believe it signified nothing. I'm somewhere in the middle. In my view, this was an appropriate use of a deadline so that we could bring the straw polls and discussion sections to a close and begin the process of working toward a resolution. It does not mean that the conversation is finished or that this page should dry up and go away. By deciding on a deadline and summarizing the questions we had discussed up to that point, we acknowledged that we had fully hashed out the benefits and problems with the placeholders -- which I believe we have -- and now it's time to build consensus around a course of action. To be clear, I believe the time for discussion about the problems and benefits of the placeholders is over. I recognize that you didn't get a chance to have your voice heard or your "vote" be counted, but there are many others on the other side of the issue who are in the same boat. We had a full and lengthy conversation here that was widely publicized, and I'm pretty sure most everything has been said. Keeping the discussion open longer so that more people could find it would not likely lead to the expression of any new viewpoints. What is not over is the process of building consensus around a solution. The straw poll is not being used to force a solution (quoting from WP:polling, "No guideline has ever been enacted through a vote") so the fact that we closed the voting via an artificial deadline should not be a problem. Northwesterner1 (talk) 16:58, 29 April 2008 (UTC)
I agree with Northwesterner1's view. The polling had ceased to have any benefit and concerns of all sides seemed clear. It seemed reasonable to move along to a more productive discussion toward a consensus solution. DoubleBlue (Talk) 17:06, 29 April 2008 (UTC)


As the 66% support for Proposal 1 has been cited as a point of evidence, I believe it's useful to remind us all that WP:Consensus says nothing about poll percentages. A majority (even a sizable majority) of support !votes does not necessarily equal consensus. Existing practice elsewhere on Wikipedia shows this to be the case. For example, the criteria at requests for adminship is that an RFA must pass with "consensus." How is consensus defined there? Well, the RFA guide states, "There is no precise 'pass' or 'fail' percentage.... However, as an approximate guide, you are likely to pass if you achieve at least 75% support. Nominations which receive less than 70% support are unlikely to be successful, except in exceptional circumstances." Now, we shouldn't use guidelines developed for RFA to determine what happens here, but it does provide an interesting point of comparison. The 2-to-1 vote we have here is very impressive, but I'm not convinced that it represents an "overwhelming" consensus by Wikipedia standards. Has anyone seen "consensus" defined in percentage terms anywhere else on Wikipedia?Northwesterner1 (talk) 05:46, 28 April 2008 (UTC)

Consensus is not about counting votes, it is about reaching a decision together. DoubleBlue (Talk) 17:39, 28 April 2008 (UTC)

Plain English

In the discussion which ended on 23 April, some 50 editors expressed opinions. Those opinions must be respected in any decisions that are taken here. --Kleinzach (talk) 23:59, 28 April 2008 (UTC)

They will be. Give it time.Northwesterner1 (talk) 00:04, 29 April 2008 (UTC)
Thank you. And DoubleBlue? Will he give a similar undertaking?--Kleinzach (talk) 00:16, 29 April 2008 (UTC)
Are you expecting me to say I don't respect the opinions given? Of course I do and we are working toward a solution that meets the concerns of all sides; that is how consensus decision making works. DoubleBlue (Talk) 02:02, 29 April 2008 (UTC)
Note from one other of "the 50" :) - I have still been watching the discussion; haven't wanted to jump in and "take sides", on this particular issue, so far, re whether discussion should be considered closed and consensus reached; however, since the question is raised about respecting the opinions of the rest of us - my personal feeling is, that, whether or not the preceding discussion should be considered officially closed, it appears that new options have come to light at about the time the former discussion was being wrapped up, and, if exploration of those new options led to a different conclusion that would be adopted with an even greater consensus than Proposal 1 appeared to have, then I would not feel that my opinions or opportunity to participate had been negated. Cheers, Lini (talk) 00:28, 29 April 2008 (UTC)
Lini: To my knowledge - and I think I know the content of the centralized discussion as well as anybody - no-one has ever suggested that new non-placeholder based image soliciting systems should not be developed, or that the conclusions of the centralized discussion should discourage new ideas in any way. So that's a non-issue here. --Kleinzach (talk) 01:55, 29 April 2008 (UTC)
As another of the 50 I have been disappointed that the few editors whose arguments were not convincing for the rest of us have continued to try and force some kind of placeholder into the infobox. The reason this centralized discussion was started was because there had been repeated attempts in other areas of Wikipedia to come to a decision on them. Some with approval of them and others with disapproval. Not having placeholders in the infoboxes was the one thing that those who responded to proposal one were most clear on. None of the objections raised in answers to the questions section have changed. Two of my main objections remain.
  1. Wikipedia's requirements for pictures have become so restrictive that the likelyhood of gaining images that meet those guidelines is minimal. There is no better example of this than Stephen Fry's page. Some editors have said that they would do all they could to get a picture for his infobox. Months have gone by and none have turned up.
  2. Many (some would say most) infoboxes will never have a picture in them. A good example is the actor Barry Jackson. While I have enjoyed his performances he is not as well known as Fry. Where is a free image going to come from for his infobox?
I can't speak for others but any placeholder is an ugly distraction compared to no placeholder at all.
The thing that I understand the least is why requests for pictures "have" to be in the infobox. The Wikipedia Film Project has at least as many pages and infoboxes as any other area of Wikipedia. We have been placing a request for photos on the talk pages for years. They are unobtrusive and are as likely to be successful in gaining photos for infoboxes as anything that has been suggested since the proposals here were "closed" last week.
One last question when a minority of editors force a placeholder into the infobox do the majority of us who disapprove of them get to hold up implementation of them due to the same convoluted reasoning that has kept discussion continuing on these pages? MarnetteD | Talk 01:23, 29 April 2008 (UTC)

Proposal to move meta-commentary to talk page

The article size is now back up to 190K. On the talk page, I made a suggestion to move this section elsewhere. The suggestion was supported by DoubleBlue and Pete and received no comment from others. I would like to have other editors' opinions, especially Kleinzach's. I'm trying to help structure the discussion and not doing this for any "tactical" reasons. Quoting from the talk page,

"I'm wondering if we should move the 'Structure of the discussion' section on the main page to this talk page or to a separate page. The centralized discussion is still very hard for newcomers to digest, and partly that is because all the procedural meta-discussion at the top (structure, participation, etc.). It would be better if newcomers could skip past the procedural stuff and get to the questions, proposals, and 'moving forward' section."

In my view, the best solution is to move this section as a whole to the talk page. I understand Kleinzach has some concerns about that. As an alternative, we could keep part of the meta-commentary live on this page, while moving aspects of it that are outdated to Wikipedia:Centralized discussion/Image placeholders/Procedural Discussion (archive) with a note about the move. We could also use hide templates, which help with visual appearance, but they don't help with article size.Northwesterner1 (talk) 22:48, 29 April 2008 (UTC)

This section should remain here because the 'Structure of the discussion has emerged as its most controversial aspect. On the other hand the sections at the foot of the page, 'Moving on' etc. can be moved to subpages like the Questions and Proposals etc. They are too long (leaving aside the question of relevance to the terms of reference of the discussion). --Kleinzach (talk) 01:09, 30 April 2008 (UTC)

Question 1. WP:SELF: Are placeholders compatible?


WP:SELF: Are placeholders compatible?

Are the placeholders incompatible with the guideline Self-references to avoid?

The guideline generally cautions against making reference to Wikipedia, or to the editable nature of Wikipedia, in main article space.

There was a fair amount of discussion about what specific part(s) of the guideline would apply to the placeholders, and a fair amount of comparison to {{stub}} tags, {{expand}} tags, and other tags such as {{refimprove}}, {{cleanup}}, which are similar in at least some respects to the placeholders, and are in widespread use.

Points raised in arguing for compatibility
  • It was noted that {{stub}} tags and numerous other widely-used tags make reference to Wikipedia's editable nature, and are widely used.
  • Placeholders do not refer to "Wikipedia" by name.
  • Image placeholders encourage significant one-off contributions from people who will never become Wikipedians - contributions we would otherwise have little chance of getting.
  • WP:SELF is merely guideline, not policy.
  • Photos are essential parts of articles, in order to become featured, when it's expected they are available.
Points raised in arguing against compatibility
  • Stubs and expand templates are explicitly allowed by the guideline, in the section "Community and website feature references". The exemption refers to articles in their "initial development."
  • If that explicit allowance is in error, that is not necessarily a reason to allow placeholders. See WP:OTHERSTUFFEXISTS.
  • Stubs are designed to draw attention to a deficiency in essential information; photos are not essential information. (Not required for good article status.)
  • Many of the tags mentioned serve a dual role, both inviting editors to improve artices, and warning the reader of a deficiency. The placeholders have no purpose as a warning, as it's plainly apparent when a photo is absent.
  • Stubs are relatively unobtrusive; small, and at the bottom of an article. Placeholders, by contrast, are large and in the most prominent part of the article (top right.)
  • Stubs and similar tags don't make appeals like "Do you have the ability to fix this?, Do you own one?"
  • Placeholders "look like advertisements."
  • Many readers are capable of expanding an article, improving neutral point of view, cleaning up an article, etc.; relatively few own a photo, or are in a position to take one.
  • Talk page template requesting photos {{reqphoto}} already exists. Talk page is more appropriate for appeals to expand an article.
  • Since the placeholders are objectionable and therefore distracting to a significant number of readers, “avoid unless compelling reasons unique to a particular article counsel otherwise.”
  • Placeholders, unlike stub tags and other tags, appear in printouts of Wikipedia articles. Technical difficulties have prevented the inclusion of the {{image class}} template, which would suppress printout. (It was suggested it might be possible to overcome the technical difficulties.)

Nine editors felt the placeholders are compatible with WP:SELF guideline; eleven felt they are not. One editor said he "didn't care"; additionally, two other editors (one "voting" each way) had significant qualifications attached to their positions.

summary by Pete (talk)

For the full discussion see Question 1. WP:SELF: Are placeholders compatible?

Question 2. Are placeholders successful in soliciting pictures?

Basic statistics: 50,789 articles placeholders were used to upload 462 images (figure provided by Genisock2) for a success rate of less than 1 percent.

Kleinzach asked: (1) Is it really worth the effort involved in inserting the placeholder in so many pages when there is so little to be gained? and (2) Is it reasonable to display a distracting graphic on 100 pages for the sake of (perhaps) getting a picture on only one of them?

This led to a wide-ranging discussion, much of it aimed at getting more information about how the system was working.

Those who believed the system ineffective argued that placeholders:

  • 1. Defaced articles. (TJRC)
  • 2. Stated the obvious. (Fishal)
  • 3. Were disingenuous regarding image licensing/legal rights. (Jaksmata)
  • 4. Were an additional “WikiComplexity”. (Drhoehl)
  • 5. Invited fakes or copyright violations. (Nrswanson, S.dedalus, Gimmetrow)
  • 6. Upload images were often of poor quality. (Northwesterner1)
  • 7. System was aimed at the wrong people. (Kleinzach)
  • 8. The low success rate would be unacceptable for copyediting tags. (Myke Cuthbert)

Those who believed the system was effective argued that the placeholders:


Others pointed out that statistics not been collected effectively and it was difficult to know whether the placeholder system led to more images being uploaded. (Gimmetrow, BrownHairedGirl, PC78)

Jmabel suggested starting a specialized WikiProject for acquiring images.

(Summary by Kleinzach)

For the full discussion see Question 2. Are placeholders successful in soliciting pictures?

Question 3. Is a biography without a photo of its central subject inadequate?

Summary & Conclusions

Northwesterner1 posed the question: Is a biography without a photo of its central subject inadequate? Wikipedia consensus suggests that templates can be used on the main page of articles that have certain types of inadequacies -- POV bias, lack of references, etc. Is a biography without a photo inadequate in the same way?

Eight editors agreed that the answer is generally no: Northwesterner1, Broadweighbabe, Nrswanson, Kleinzach, Pete, Fishal, jaksmata, Guroadrunner. Jaksmata observed that many articles in the Encyclopedia Britannica have no images, and Broadweighbabe and Pete noted that many good articles on Wikipedia don't have photos of their subjects. Two editors disagreed: Phil Sandifer and Geni. They argued that GA/FA reviews require or strongly encourage photos, and that this requirement constitutes evidence that articles without photos are inadequate. Northwester1 countered that articles don't have to be GA-class to meet a baseline Wikipedia standard of adequate and acceptable content.

Two editors, Cherry blossom tree and DoubleBlue, sought to reframe the question. As Cherry blossom tree said, the real questions should be "Are image placeholders inherently pointing to an article's inadequacy?" and "Is this an acceptable side effect?"

So Northwesterner1 posed the subquestions:

  • Do the placeholder boxes suggest that articles are inadequate? Six editors said yes ("they broadcast a message that there is something wrong with the article"), one said no ("it says it can be improved in the same way edit buttons say it").
  • Is the suggestion of inadequacy an acceptable side effect? Here the response was mixed: Two maybe’s, two no’s.

An additional question asked whether past discussion about fair use vs. free images indicates consensus that images are necessary. Editors agreed that past discussions were not directly related to the matter at hand.

Overall, the consensus in this section appears clear: Biographies lacking photos of their central subjects are acceptable on Wikipedia. They are incomplete, and they can be improved. But they are not inadequate. The current placeholders do suggest that articles are inadequate. Whether this is an acceptable side effect depends on how we weigh the larger questions at stake in this debate.

(Summary by Northwesterner1. I hope I've done a fair job of it. Northwesterner1 (talk) 09:08, 23 April 2008 (UTC))

For the full discussion see Question 3. Is a biography without a photo of its central subject inadequate?
See also the following subquestions on the same page:

Question 4. Placeholders and Wikipedia 'style': are they compatible?

Summary & Conclusions

In posing this question, Kleinzach observed that it had engendered heated, polarized debate in the original discussion, with the “pro-box” camp viewing boxes as emphasizing Wikipedia’s function as a storehouse for free content and its status a work in progress and the “anti-box” camp’s concerns as being that the boxes are unattractive and evocative of commercial advertising. As a point of departure for further debate, he asked whether these viewpoints admit of any middle ground and whether perhaps, in this instance, Wikipedia might do well to adopt an ad hoc approach rather than universal rules. The response, while again polarized, was light: Nrswanson responded in opposition to abandoning universal rules, while Jmabel found that concept to embody desirable flexibility. The sole other response came from Guroadrunner, who commented that the greyscale images are offensive to the eyes and that plain text with a border would be preferable. Thus, while the discussion overall did not favor placeholders in their present form, neither did it evoke a clear consensus.

Summary by Drhoehl, who hopes he got it right.

For the full discussion, see Question 4. Placeholders and Wikipedia 'style': are they compatible?

Question 5: What would the ideal system look like (leaving aside practical and technical limitations)?

Summary & Conclusions

User:Peteforsyth asked what the ideal system would look like if there were no limitations imposed by the MediaWiki software. The discussion solicited 18 comments by 10 different users. There were few differences with the proposals solicited above, either by those generally in favor of image placeholders or by those against, suggesting that technical limitations are not among the main constraints in the discussion.

Even if technical limitations against moving the location of the placeholder were removed, some users preferred the current location at the top of the page. However, a hypothetical move of the request for image (with a small image link) to the bottom of the page was considered an acceptable compromise by four users. Whether shrinking the size of the image placeholder would be a good thing (if possible) was debated, with accessibility issues being raised; the matter was unresolved.

(summary by M.S.Cuthbert)

For the full discussion see Question 5: What would the ideal system look like?

Question 6: Do placeholders help discourage editors from uploading non-free (i.e. fair use) images?


Hammersoft provided an anecdote about how the image placeholder works in practice. S/he patrols biographies of living persons, removing fair-use images (which are against Wikipedia's policies on BLPs) and replacing them with placeholders. Hammersoft reported that when s/he replaces a fair-use image with a placeholder, the chance that someone will put another fair-use image up on the article is greatly reduced. Hammersoft suggested that this reduced recidivism rate was an overlooked benefit of the placeholders that had not been discussed.

Nrswanson, Northwesterner1, and Broadweighbabe (in the side comments) agreed that there could be some benefit to this use if the trend indeed holds across Wikipedia; however, they said the additional benefit did not outweigh the existing negatives.

Nrswanson, jaksmata, and Kleinzach concluded that there were still many copyright violations in Category:Images of people replacing placeholders, and they didn't see evidence that the image placeholders were working well to keep out unusable images. (See Question 2. Are placeholders successful in soliciting pictures? for related discussion.)

Northwesterner1 and Carcharoth (in the side comments) raised the additional question of whether image placeholders do a disservice by discouraging editors from adding fair-use images to dead person bios. Proponents of the placeholders say that the guidelines suggest limiting their use to BLPs only; however, Northwesterner1 found that 20% of a small sample of articles linked to the female placeholder were dead person bios.

(summary by Northwesterner1 (talk) 18:01, 23 April 2008 (UTC))

For the full discussion see Question 6: Do placeholders help discourage editors from uploading non-free (i.e. fair use) images?

Question 7: Is Template:Images needed an acceptible article space alternative to Wikipedia image placeholders?


GregManninLB suggested using template: Images needed instead of placeholders as currently implemented. The reasoning is that there are other expansion requests acceptable for use in the article namespace in addition to those used in talk namespace. One user (Jaksmata) said it was “better” but not “acceptable”. Three users (DoubleBlue, Kleinzach and Guroadrunner) said that it would be better to improve the existing placeholder rather than replace it with the template. DoubleBlue suggested that the template could be used in cases where an image is needed to illustrate some particular aspect of the article outside the infobox. – jaksmata 14:14, 23 April 2008 (UTC)

For the full discussion see Question 7: Is 'Template:Images needed' an acceptible article space alternative to 'Category:Wikipedia image placeholders'?

Question 8. What ideas can be suggested for the modification of the image placeholder?


This section somewhat overlaps with Question 5 and Proposals 2 and 3.

Some users objected to the separate male and female silhouettes and requested a gender neutral image. Others countered that gender neutral images tend to favour male looking images. User:Nrswanson suggested using an image of a camera rather than a person as a way to avoid this issue and received some support. User:Jaksmata suggested using a blank background.

The text on the image was also discussed. User:Padraic objected to the phrase "click here". Others felt it was necessary, though attempting to replicate a 'clickable link' within the image was also discussed. User:Jaksmata suggested using simply "upload an image". User:DoubleBlue felt that this was not sufficiently specific with regard to the copyright status of the image.

A number of users felt that the current placeholder was too large, arguing that it was overshadowing the article. User:Geni said that any image in an infobox is automatically scaled to 220px in width, and this could not be readily altered. User:Cherry blossom tree suggested a wide but shallow image, which would take up less space. There were also concerns that, whatever the size of the image, the text needed to be readable since most browsers could not scale it. There was general support for the images being 'not bigger than required', though little discussion on what this limit was.

Side note: This section of the discussion became somewhat bogged down over whether the size of the image could be altered. I'll try and explain, if anyone is still unclear. The image is an SVG, so the dimensions of the uploaded image don't matter. The image can be resized when it is inserted into the article without any loss of clarity.

The location of the placeholder was also discussed, with placing it either lower down the page or on the talk page suggested. These steps would somewhat satisfy those who felt the top right corner was too prominent. It was also argued that either of these options would reduce the effectiveness of the placeholder. User:Geni also said that the simplified image upload form requires the uploaded image to replace the placeholder, so the bottom of the page and the talk page would not work.

(Summary by User:Cherry blossom tree)
For the full discussion see Question 8. What ideas can be suggested for the modification of the image placeholder?

An overview of the history, context, and technical aspects of image placeholders and the related upload system

The upload system was originally developed towards the end of the fair use conflicts and in direct response to editors complaints about the lack of images (see late 2006 early 2007 at Wikipedia talk:Non-free content/archive toc). The original proof of concept (see first edits in the history) was then heavily developed through IRC discussion.

It was not however the first placeholder on Wikipedia, that distinction is held by Image:Nocover.png (although it doesn't have the backend built in. This demonstrates that the placeholders have a long history of acceptance in Wikipedia.

A full description of the system can be found at Wikipedia:Upload placeholder images. The system likely has more tricks up its sleeve than you think. Also please click on the image to see what any uploader would see. The system has in some form or another since been adopted by other language wikipedia's including no.wikipedia. A significant number of free images have been uploaded as a result both directly through the system indirectly via things like OTRS and indirectly due to regular editors being reminded of the need for images. The exact appearance of the images has been adapted a number of times in response to various concerns. Further development is always welcome. As well bringing reader's attention to the fact they can help the project it also simplifies the means by which they can do so. The need for this is clearly shown by de:Wikipedia:WikiProjekt Usability/Test Februar 2006.

As the system grew out of the fair use debates the initial approach was that the image would appear only on articles that would not qualify for a fair use image (living people who made public appearances at least from time to time)

For the full discussion see An overview of the history, context, and technical aspects of image placeholders and the related upload system


I am adding this section to allow editors who have formulated an opinion about the issues above to comment on concrete solutions. The discussion in the sections above should continue, of course; but I want to make sure we have a space to capture the "vote" of editors who have read through the question statement and the discussion and have an opinion about a concrete course of action. Keep your opinions in this section succinct. If Proposal 1 passes, Proposals 2 and 3 are void. If all proposals fail, then the placeholders images will be retained as is. If you believe the placeholders should be retained as is, just note "disagree" under each proposal.Northwesterner1 (talk) 02:40, 13 April 2008 (UTC)

Proposal 1: Placeholder images should not be used at all on the main page of articles

If this proposal passes, we edit style guidelines to explicitly disapprove the use of these images on article pages. We also remove the placeholder images from articles where they are currently in place and/or move them to talk pages.


Agree Disagree Neutral
35 (66%) 17 (32%) 1 (2%)


The following agreed with the proposal that Placeholder images should not be used at all on the main page of articles: Northwesterner1, MarnetteD, Cygnis insignis, Nrswanson, S.dedalus, Myke Cuthbert, Kleinzach, Padraic, Rettetast, Wanderer57, Lexicon, Lini, AStanhope, Espresso Addict, Voceditenore, Sandstein , Kaldari, Ssilvers, NVO, GuillaumeTell, Aboutmovies, Mitico, Peter cohen, PamD, Fishal, hahnch, Pete, penubag, Сасусlе, Johnbod, Jaksmata, Shanes, Billscottbob, Bobak, SilkTork (35).

Those who agreed with the proposal referred back to the initial discussion (6 editors), regarded the placeholders as intrusive, ugly, amateurish, in the wrong place, cluttering, distracting and disruptive (12), thought the placeholders overemphasized the importance of including pictures in articles (3), thought the solicitation should be on the talk page (4), self-referencing (2), thought them ineffective (3) and objected to their semi-automated, systematic dispersal (2).

The following disagreed with the proposal: DoubleBlue, Jobjörn, Garion96, Phil Sandifer, Mangostar, Lincolnite, LtPowers, Howcheng, Omegatron, BrownHairedGirl, CComMack, Johnleemk, Terraxos, Bkonrad, Sherool, Sceptre, Jauerback (17).

Those who disagreed with the proposal made the following points: the placeholders were useful and effective (10 editors), had not been used long enough to assess (1), useful for deterring non-free images (1), similar to other maintenance tags (1). Their use should be discretionary but not prohibited (1). It was "ludicrous to allow style guidelines to trump an effective way of building the encyclopedia" (1). WP "must promote free content" (1).

One editor abstained: Guroadrunner (1).

In side comments, it was clarified that the discussion applied to the image placeholders ad variants listed in the archive (section). Further discussions were largely procedural.

(summary by Kleinzach)

See Proposal 1 for the full response to this proposal.

Proposal 2: If placeholder images are retained, they should be modified in appearance

If Proposal 1 passes, this proposal is void. If Proposal 1 does not pass, but Proposal 2 does pass, then we will have a subsequent discussion about the nature of any modifications.

Straw poll results

Agree Disagree Neutral
22 (81%) 1 (4%) 4 (15%)


There is clear consensus that if placeholder images are retained, they should be modified in appearance. Discussion on those changes has begun under Question 8. The reasons given for wanting the placeholder images modified are:

  • They are "ugly" and inherently distract from the article.
  • The issue of how/if gender should be depicted in a silhouette is controversial.
  • The "Click here" message is unprofessional.
  • The definition of "Free image" is not well-known to casual Wikipedia readers.
  • They take up too much space.
  • They self-reference Wikipedia.
  • They imply that Wikipedia is incomplete.
  • The text is the wrong size/color.
  • A graphic is not needed.
  • The images are in the wrong place (i.e., they should be at the bottom of the page).

(Note: most editors who support changing do not support support all of these reasons.) – jaksmata 15:19, 23 April 2008 (UTC)

See Proposal 2 for the full response to this proposal.

Proposal 3: If placeholder images are retained, the method by which they are applied should be modified

If Proposal 1 passes, this proposal is void. If Proposal 1 does not pass, but Proposal 3 does pass, then we will have a subsequent discussion about how the methods should change.

Straw poll results

Agree Disagree Neutral
16 (57%) 12 (43%) 0 (0%)


This discussion was divided with a small majority of those taking part arguing in favour of the proposition. This is a somewhat simplistic description, however, as there was significant common ground between between some of the supporters and some of the opposers and also significant differences between some of the people nominally in the same category.

One issue raised repeatedly was that of the use of semi-automated tools such as Auto Wiki Browser to add the placeholders. Some people objected in principle to automation. User:Peteforsyth felt that automated placement implied that the placeholders could not be removed. Everyone who addressed the issue, whether supporting or opposing the proposal, agreed that fully automatic use should not be attempted because placeholders are not suitable for every article. Some users pointed to errors that had been made in the past.

The second major issue discussed was whether or not placeholders should be optional. Again, there was widespread consensus with no-one arguing that they should not be. Many editors advised users who did not think that placeholders were appropriate for a particular article or set of articles simply to remove them and User:Geni maintained that the use of placeholders had always been optional. On the other hand, some users pointed to occasions when a removed placeholder had been re-added. User:Bkonrad (older ≠ wiser) suggested replacing the placeholder with something to indicate that it should not be added again. One unresolved issue was whether to leave the adding of the placeholder to an article's regular editors (per User:Northwesterner1) or whether to allow it to be added by other editors where there had been no opt-out (per current practice.)

User:Northwesterner1 also argued that placeholders should be removed if unsuccessful after a period of time. This was supported by two users but User:Mangostar argued that chance of someone with an image seeing the placeholder remains and User:Jobjörn argued that it should remain until the issue is addressed.

(Summary by User:Cherry blossom tree)

See Proposal 3 for the full response to this proposal.

Proposal 4: If placeholder images are retained, they should be extended to a wider range of articles

If Proposal 1 passes, this proposal is void. If Proposal 1 does not pass, but Proposal 4 does pass, then we will have a subsequent discussion about extending the placeholders to a wider range of articles. Other areas where a free photo could reasonably be created (say weaponry likely to appear in museums) should also have placeholder systems built for them. (proposal added by Genisock2, modified by Northwesterner1 (talk) 18:43, 18 April 2008 (UTC))

Straw poll results

Agree Disagree Neutral
0 (0%) 9 (100%) 0 (0%)


This proposal has unanimously failed. – jaksmata 15:30, 23 April 2008 (UTC)

See Proposal 4 for the full response to this proposal.

Additional Proposals

Two additional proposals were put forth in the final 48 hours of this discussion:

Neither proposal received significant discussion. They were supported only by the proposer, GregManninLB. They received a few comments and questions by editors who seemed inclined to oppose the proposals but did not explicitly provide a !vote.

(summary by Northwesterner1 (talk) 18:10, 23 April 2008 (UTC))

See Additional Proposals for the full response to this section.