Wikipedia:WikiProject Military history/News/November 2010/Editorials

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Nominating military biographies for deletion, by bahamut0013 (adapted from User:Bahamut0013/deletion)

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As part of our mission on writing an encyclopedia, we sometimes have to weed out articles that don't meet our criteria. The WP:Articles for deletion (AfD) process is one of the most common methods, and can be intimidating to the uninitiated. Even veteran editors can be caught up in a very heated discussion due to the high emotional stakes involved. The best thing to do is to keep your cool, act civil at all times, and help everyone through the process.

In my experience, an article about a service member killed, wounded, or otherwise closely connected to a war is often written by a relative, friend, or member of his or her unit. First off, the conflict of interest is immediate, and the emotional backlash is so hot that any actions that "threaten" the article are immediately regarded as hostile. The stakes run high, and usually made worse because the author(s) are almost always inexperienced with Wikipedia's Policies and guidelines, especially those regarding deletion and notability.

The most you can do is to help educate the newcomers without biting them. Offer to help them learn about our policies and practices (two of the best links to offer are Wikipedia:Help, my article got nominated for deletion! and Wikipedia:Guide to deletion). Remind them that a nomination is not an attack on the subject or the author, and that taking it personally is probably the least constructive route to take. Be patient and don't respond to incivility.

In my experience, most military biographies with a valid nomination for deletion are usually about notability or biographies of living persons (BLP). The general notability guidelines (GNG) require a subject to have received significant coverage in reliable sources that are independent of the subject to be presumed to satisfy the inclusion criteria. This precludes original research, unverifiable sources, and references that are otherwise deemed unreliable (such as self-published information). Wikipedia:Notability (people) notes that "a person is presumed to be notable if he or she has been the subject of published secondary source material which is reliable, intellectually independent, and independent of the subject." Trivial coverage is specifically excluded from establishing notability.

People notable for only one event explains that when an individual is significant for his or her role in a single event, it may be unclear whether an article should be written about the individual, the event or both. Usually, the degree of significance of the event itself and the degree of significance of the individual's role within it should be considered. The general rule in many cases is to cover the event, not the person. For military people this usually denotes participation in a battle or skirmish, and the biography would redirect to the article on the event. Subjects notable only for one event concerns a similar area, but is more restrictive due to the rules regarding biographies of living persons.

WikiProject Military History has its own metric specifically written for the biographies of military-related individuals: Wikipedia:WikiProject Military history/Notability guide#People.

For the record, I disagree somewhat with some of these provisions, which you will know if you frequent military-related deletion discussions. Another important policy to relate is Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not. It notes several types of articles that are not appropriate for Wikipedia, including those that act as a soapbox or means of promotion, opinion pieces, gossip, self-promotion, memorial site, directory, genealogical entries, or directories.

Note that these policies and guidelines are not necessarily mutually exclusive. For example, an individual may fail WP:GNG, but pass WP:BIO and WP:MILPEOPLE and thus be notable (such as Jason Dunham). The reverse could also be true, where an individual fails MILPEOPLE but passes GNG (such as Chance Phelps). Also note that other notability guidelines may apply, because military people tend to have careers after their service is over (such as athletes, authors, businesspeople, and politicians).

Also note that the policy on biographies of living persons (BLP) is paramount and overrules any other consideration. WP:BLP1E is frequently used to delete articles for this reason. Libel and/or a non-neutral point of view are unacceptable, but luckily they are usually easy to fix without deletion. If the subject or an immediate relative call for deletion, direct them to read Wikipedia:Biographies of living persons/Help; editors should consider a request from the subject (or his/her relatives or descendants) to be a primary consideration. Another unacceptable contribution involves WP:copyright violations, unless the owner has utilized OTRS to give permission.

Often, authors attempt to negotiate a compromise; however, these are almost never feasible. Either an individual has notability or he/she does not, and there isn't much to be done about it. I'm willing to consider a merge and/or redirect in the spirit of BIO1E, and a redirect might be a worthy idea because it could be a valid search term (especially when the person is featured on some sort of media, such as a TV short). If the article is deleted and there are still disagreements, consider talking to the closing administrator or taking the decision to Deletion review.

One of the final takeaways is to never disrespect or insult anyone, especially the fallen. Any negative opinions about individuals should not be expressed on Wikipedia, whether in article space or in another venue. Advise the offended authors to think objectively about refuting arguments with evidence and policy. If you are wrong or something you were unaware of is brought to light, consider it carefully, and note if you have changed your position and withdrawn the nom or changed the vote as necessary. Don't try to bully or lecture anyone, and don't appeal to emotions. If you come to an impasse, recognize it and end a futile argument that is unlikely to be productive.

Nominating an article for deletion can be a trial for you, at times. Always assume good faith! I'm a U.S. Marine, and I hate nominating an article about my brothers and sisters in arms. The goal should be articles on Wikipedia that fall in line with established policy and guidelines, even if people don't always agree with them. Be flexible when you can: try to seek exceptions and sometimes ignore rules that don't make sense.

Ultimately, however, we have to do what's right for the project. If an article isn't right, then it isn't right, and has to go.