Wikipedia:There is more to an encyclopedia than writing articles

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A commonly repeated statement on Wikipedia is that since Wikipedia is an encyclopedia the only task of any real importance or significance is writing material in the mainspace. Whenever drama flares up there is a succinct possibility that someone will attempt to remind us all that this is an encyclopedia and that we should abandon what we are doing and immediately resume writing articles. This is a good idea in theory and what one must remember is that in theory Wikipedia fails, as it would if this suggestion were to ever be taken seriously.

Background[edit]

Many times, when someone realises they are about to lose (or have lost) an argument, that editor is quite likely to attempt to remind everyone that we are here to write articles, and therefore the argument they just lost is unimportant. This is clearly false, however it has become increasingly common for anyone, random uninvolved parties to jump headlong into a heated debate and make a snide remark about how the discussion is wasting time that could be better spent writing. This sets a dangerous precedent, as the more the suggestion is repeated the more firmly it becomes implanted as a meme which is therefore repeated by more and more people, the viral nature of this could set the project onto a very dangerous slippery slope.

The truth of the matter is that more goes into an encyclopedia than simply writing. As someone who has worked in the newspaper industry for a number of years, in various capacities including; circulation, advertising, design, sub-editing, production, pre-press, reporting and, of course, writing. Granted, Wikipedia is not a newspaper, however the analogy is still mostly true. There is more to a newspaper than writing news stories; without advertising there is no profit, without circulation no one reads it. The different departments and operations are co-dependent and without one the operation fails.

The Britannica analogy[edit]

Britannica is an encyclopedia, much as the same as Wikipedia is, however more goes into the creation of it than simply writing articles. Of course Britannica has writers and the main objective for Britannica is to write encyclopedic content, however if that was the only thing which Britannica did there would be no encyclopedia. Without a sales and marketing team nobody would buy it, without researchers there is no fact checking, without editors there are no editorial decisions. Wikipedia has no editor, instead the entire community is given the opportunity to fill the roll as it is needed. I am positive Britannica has had editorial disputes which have shifted the focus from writing content to resolving what exactly will be included in their publication. I am positive an employee of Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. has resigned from the company amidst drama, I am sure in its 240 years an employee of Britannica has been fired. These events would have resulted in decisions having to be made by people, whose focus would have been shifted from writing content momentarily to resolve a dispute. Wikipedia is no different; disputes occur and the collective editorial department (i.e. the community) is given the task of stepping in to resolve the dispute to keep the project focused in the right direction.

Conclusion[edit]

Meta-discussion and drama are a necessary part of what we do. More goes into any publication than simply writing, even if it is behind the scenes. Taking the time to resolve disputes is not affecting the content in any way, there is no deadline so if a few hours of editors' time is consumed by a little bit of drama the project does not suffer one iota. If everyone were to take seriously the suggestion of "get back to writing content" the project would be overcome by unresolved issues, no one would be around to put A7 tags on vanity articles about garage bands and the like. It is the internal workings of the project that keep it running smoothly, the extra discussion does no harm and without it Wikipedia would not be the project that it is today.