Talk:Outliers (book)/GA1

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GA Review[edit]

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Hi, I am reviewing this article for GA. Following are a list of my comments.

  • "producing non-fiction articles" - why not "writing" - sounds like he is a factory
  • "newspapers that he has written for." ending sentences with a preposition still not formally accepted in quality publications, although its use has slipped into popular acceptance,
  • "Reviewers also appreciated the questions posed by Outliers, finding it important to question how much individual potential is ignored by society." - can you find another word for the second use of "question"?
  • "However, the lessons learned were considered anticlimatic and dispiriting. The writing style, considered easy to understand, was criticized for oversimplifying complex sociological phenomena." - "considered" used twice - better if wording is varied.
  • "Gladwell was drawn to writing about singular things ever since he discovered that" - "after" would be better than "ever since".
  • "When he was about to be expelled from the school, he was able to compromise with the administrators with the help of his more cultivated upbringing." - this is ambiguous - what does it mean?
  • The article is somewhat repetitious. Between the "Background", "Synopsis" and "Reception", plus the many examples and quotations, it seems like the same point are repeated over and over. I think the article could be tighter and more focused.
  • the over use of quotes - The quotes usually supply no more insight than what you have provided in your own words before and after.
  • too much detail - Some of the detail is excessive. For example, I think the example regarding the author's personal history is too long.

All and all, it is a fine article, and none of the points above are important except the repetitiousness made worse, from my point of view, by the quotes and examples. The book seems to have a fairly simple thesis, so all the quotes and examples seem unnecessary.

I will put this on hold.

Mattisse (Talk) 19:20, 18 January 2009 (UTC)

I got most of the points except for the last three, which I'm working on. Could you perhaps give one or two examples of each, just to jumpstart my mind? I've stared at this article for so long that it gets harder and harder to think of different ways to organize it. Also, which part about the personal history is too long? Isn't that just first three sentences of the second paragraph of "Background"? Gary King (talk) 19:51, 18 January 2009 (UTC)
Quick example
  • For example, could not most of the second para under "Background" be removed? There is at least one other place where you discuss the author's background, his Jamaican mother, etc. And quotes about his general motivation for writing don't seem particularly enlightening nor directed at the topic of this article: "As a kid, 11 or something, we would go to his office, and I would wander round. [...] I got that sense that everybody was so friendly, and their doors were open. I sort of fell in love with libraries at the same time." (I could say the same thing about myself and probably 90% of people who like to read. But I'm not making money from bestsellers.)
  • "Praise focused on Gladwell's writing style, while criticism targeted the book's oversimplified analysises. The A.V. Club considered Outliers a complementary publication to James Surowiecki's 2004 book The Wisdom of Crowds." - I am not objecting to these particular sentences but providing only an illustration, as you go on to repeat the theme in comparing the two books. The theme is repeated several times throughout the article, and since it is a simple one, it does not, in my view, bear so much repeating.
  • Also, the issues of the book's "oversimplified analysis" is mentioned several times in different places. Could you not say something like (hypothetical example): The Times, The New York Review of Books, and the Seattle Times all criticized the book's oversimplified analysis?

Mattisse (Talk) 20:16, 18 January 2009 (UTC)

Okay, I removed some of the irrelevant background info. Should I remove the all of this?

"The A.V. Club considered Outliers a complementary publication to James Surowiecki's 2004 book The Wisdom of Crowds. The latter mentions how society focuses too much on solitary genius and discounts what ordinary people are capable of when in groups, while the former discusses the conditions that allow solitary geniuses to do extraordinary things. Gladwell noted how both books are "exercises in demystification" and "acknowledging the importance of community", and realized that they were parts of the same broader argument, which is "trying to get Americans to stop obsessing on the individual so much"."

Also, the "oversimplified" stuff is only mentioned a few times, I think? In "because of his oversimplification of complex sociological phenomena", and "Displeased with Gladwell's generalizations"; the second example follows with "The Independent also held this opinion", so that it is not repeated a third time. Gary King (talk) 20:54, 18 January 2009 (UTC)
  • ""trying to get Americans to stop obsessing on the individual so much" - Looking at the source you provide, Gladwell made this comment in answer to a question, as a very general comment. Nowhere in the previous part of the article is there an indication that Gladwell's book was intended as part of a broader attempt to try to get Americans to to stop obsessing on the individual. In fact, regardless of what Gladwell says, going by the article, the book focuses very much on individuals, including Gladwell's autobiography. Personally, I think this is WP:SYN. This article is about the book, right? Not Gladwell in general. Nor is it supposed to be about a "concept of sociological phenomena" as described in The Wisdom of Crowds. So I do think this is rather far afield. —Mattisse (Talk) 22:02, 18 January 2009 (UTC)
Okay, I removed the AV Club stuff. However, in my defense, in Outliers (book), I wrote "realized that they were parts of the same broader argument, which is 'trying to get Americans to stop obsessing on the individual so much'", which references his response in the AV Club article of "But you're right; they are pieces of the same broader argument, which is trying to get Americans to stop obsessing on the individual so much." Gary King (talk) 22:08, 18 January 2009 (UTC)
  • I still think it is too detailed. For example, the "10,000-Hour Rule" is mentioned seven different times in the article. It just is not that original an idea to be mentioned so many times. I think the lead is too detailed also, because basically you go through it all in such detail in the article. All the examples merely reiterate the two basic themes. Maybe if you whittled the lead down to a real summary of the article, the rest of the article could handle the over detail. —Mattisse (Talk) 21:25, 27 January 2009 (UTC)
I removed the two examples from the lead. I'm not sure about removing anything else, though, as the lead is appropriate a length per WP:LEAD. Also, there is one mention of the "10,000-Hour Rule" in the lead, five in the one paragraph that talks about it, and one more in the Reception section. I don't think that's a problem, is it? Also, I'm still working on tweaking the article based on a few of your earlier comments, so there will be some changes soon. Gary King (talk) 21:34, 27 January 2009 (UTC)
Further comments
  • The critical reception section in the lead is much more positive and simplistic than the nuanced, rather critical, summary in the article body.
  • Question this sentence in the lead: "When he remarked that all his books focus on singularities—singular events in The Tipping Point, singular moments in Blink, and singular people in Outliers—Gladwell noted that he is drawn to writing articles about singularities because they make the best stories, which he finds have the best chances of reaching the front page of newspapers." In the body, the citation has the interviewer from AVBooks making this assertion, and Gladwell just replying to it. The interviewer, not Gladwell uses the word "singularities" - this is getting close to WP:SYN.

Mattisse (Talk) 01:50, 28 January 2009 (UTC)

Okay, I rewrote that part of the lead. Also, I think the lead should at least contain some critical reception, shouldn't it? Gary King (talk) 02:09, 28 January 2009 (UTC)
  • It should summarize accurately that the critical reception was by no means all positive. In fact, despite its being on the NYTimes Bestseller's list, the critical reception was, well, quite critical of the book. —Mattisse (Talk) 02:16, 28 January 2009 (UTC)
What specifically should be changed from the critical reception in the lead, then? Just remove "Generally well received by critics"? Gary King (talk) 02:25, 28 January 2009 (UTC)
  • Still have problems with the lead. Is is not reflective of the article and the article should focus on the article subject, the book.
  • From lead: "Gladwell remarked that if readers could take only one thing away with them after reading Outliers, he wanted them to realize that what people in society do for each other matters as much as what they do for themselves." This does not seem important enough for the lead, 1.) because the use of "remarked" makes it sound superficial, and 2.) that is just a spin on one of the two basic points of the book anyway, according to the author (the other being the 10,000 rule).
  • From the lead and article body:"The book has been generally well received by critics." You show that it was a popular best seller but you do not show that the book was "generally well received by critics", whom ever a pop science critic might be. In any event, critics are not best-seller lists.
  • Needs more critical reviews and less on what Gladwell thinks about his own book, especially when it is interview material, probably from his "promotional tour" and he is making remarks off-the-cuff.
  • The Wall Street Journal says of Gladwell's writing, "now sufficiently iconic". That is different than your statement: The Wall Street Journal praised Gladwell's writing style as "iconic". I think the WSJ may have been a little tongue-in-cheek, as they go on to say:

    Mr. Gladwell reduces complex sociological phenomenon (such as the success of Eastern European Jewish immigrants or the apparent facility of Asians for math) to compact, pithy explanations (exposure to the entrepreneurial culture of the garment industry and the efficiency-demanding requirements of rice-patty cultivation, respectively), you can't help wondering whether something has been lost in the simplification. This is especially worrisome in the context of the ever-captivating sociological studies that provide much of the supporting evidence in "Outliers." Science is just not as tidy as Mr. Gladwell's explanations would seem to suggest.

Mattisse (Talk) 20:24, 28 January 2009 (UTC)

  • And also, his responses to an interview putting words into his mouth is not the same as his independent anaylsis, or even better, someone else's independent analysis. —Mattisse (Talk) 03:41, 29 January 2009 (UTC)
  • I hate to harp on this, but the lead does not sufficiently state the negativity of some of the reception. From reading that section, I get the idea the reception was "mixed". Eight weeks on a best seller list does not mean "praised". The reviews sound like the reviews expected more from him as his method was getting worn ( "certain exhaustion in his favorite method"). Also, as I explained above. I don't think the WSJ unremittingly praised the book (See blockquote on the subject above).

Mattisse (Talk) 01:56, 30 January 2009 (UTC)

I have tried to tidy the lead a bit according to some of the points made above. Also changed the genre from psychology and sociology to anthropology and sociology, since I find it hard to find the specific psychological parts of the book. I overall think this is a pretty good article. I don't think one should try to overdo some of those negative comments the book has gotten, since there seem to be far most of the positive kind overall.TheFreeloader (talk) 06:52, 31 January 2009 (UTC)

  • Remains repetitious. Example" 10,000 and 10,000 hours is mentioned seven times in the article. This is a simplistic concept and does not bear so much repetition.
  • Too many quotations from Gladwell that are not memorable and could be paraphrased easily. This would lessen the monotony of the article, as most of the quotations are already described in article prose and so adding bland quotes seems redundant.
  • I will have pass the article as GA as it can be argued that the GA article criteria are met; I just wish the article could be improved first.

Mattisse (Talk) 17:50, 31 January 2009 (UTC)

I agree that there are too many quotes, so I tried to paraphrase a few. The 10,000 hour rule, again, is mentioned six times in the paragraph that focuses on it, and then twice more outside of that paragraph. If looked at in this context, then I don't see it as being mentioned too often. Gary King (talk) 18:00, 31 January 2009 (UTC)
The 10,000 hour rule is such a simple and unoriginal concept, I would think once would be enough, and no mention in the lead. (As an aside, I find the GAN article The Ingenuity Gap, a review of book in a similar category as this one, much more appropriately written with a less fan-like point of view. Especially, note the "Content" section where the books is succinctly summarized.) —Mattisse (Talk) 18:05, 31 January 2009 (UTC)

Final GA review (see here for criteria)

  1. It is reasonably well written.
    a (prose): Well written b (MoS): Follows MoS
  2. It is factually accurate and verifiable.
    a (references): Well referenced b (citations to reliable sources): Sources are reliable c (OR): No OR
  3. It is broad in its coverage.
    a (major aspects): Sets the context b (focused): Remains focused on subject
  4. It follows the neutral point of view policy.
    Fair representation without bias: NPOV
  5. It is stable.
    No edit wars etc.:
  6. It is illustrated by images, where possible and appropriate.
    a (images are tagged and non-free images have fair use rationales): b (appropriate use with suitable captions):
  7. Overall:

Congratulations. —Mattisse (Talk) 19:03, 31 January 2009 (UTC)