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This essay outlines my opinions and feelings on the nomination of biographical articles for deletion and subsequent discussion(s), especially those pertaining to military personnel and those involved with recent warfare. These types of discussions can sometimes get very heated due to the high emotional stakes involved.

If you are reading this because I have nominated an article for deletion, read Wikipedia:Help, my article got nominated for deletion!. Try to keep your cool and act civil in all discussion (nothing hurts your case worse than acting like a fool or abusive). to better understand the deletion process, read Wikipedia:Guide to deletion.

The stakes[edit]

In my experience, an article about a servicemember killed, wounded, or otherwise closely connected to a war is usually written by a relative, friend, or member of his/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.

One of the worst parts is this lack of good faith. I'm a U.S. Marine, and I hate nominating an article about my brothers and sisters in arms. But people assume things about me and question my motives. I've been blasted about denigrating the honor of people who have fought for my freedom, as if I haven't done the same for them. My motives are never personal; I don't buy into inter-service rivalry, I don't try to hide or cover up things that embarass my country and fellows, and I don't try to minimize sacrifices made. I simply want articles on Wikipedia to fall in line with established policy and guidelines, even if I don't always agree with them. I'm not a bureaucratic bean-counter who mindlessly enforces empty law either, I actively try to seek exceptions and sometimes I will ignore rules that don't make sense. However, don't mistake my reluctance to delete or willingness to discuss/compromise as weakness; I don't tolerate bullies and will defend my position reasonably. Incivillity towards me or others only hurts your attempts to save the article.

The issue[edit]

For me, a valid nomination for deletion is usually about notability.

From Wikipedia:Notability:[1]

From Wikipedia:Notability (people):[6]

From Wikipedia:WikiProject Military history/Notability guide#People:[14]

For the record, I disagree somewhat with some of these provisions. I disagree with #2 in that I have consistanctly argued that a Silver Star lends just enough to often assure notability, but I've just as consistantly been voted down; the precedent firms up the curent consensus, and I am in the minority opinion. Likewise with #3, I don't think that stars are automatically enough; however, there is usually a positive correlation with being a flag officer and clauses 5, 6, and/or 7. I also posit that the definition of "substantial body of troops" can't be universally applied; a battalion is usually notable in the United States Marine Corps, but the minimum assumption is that of a brigade in the larger United States Army, and neither definition can be easily applied to the People's Liberation Army or Afghan National Army. I also note that clauses 7, 8, and 9 must be applied with Wikipedia:Wikipedia is not for things made up one day in mind, and that credit for an invention, science, fad, or neologism doesn't equate to notibility, even if the concept is notable. I also refuse to consider bloggers as satisfying #9 unless they have established some serious credibility.

From Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not:[15]

Note that these policies and guidelines are not necessarily mutually exclusive. For example, an individual may fail WP:GNG and WP:BIO, but pass WP:MILPEOPLE and thus be notable (such as Jason Dunham). Vice versa could be true, where an individual fails MILPEOPLE but passes GNG (such as Chance Phelps).[18] Also note that other notability guidelines may apply, because military members tend to have careers after thier service is over (such as athletes, authors, businesspeople, andpoliticians).

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 out of this consideration. Libel and/or a non-neutral point of view are unacceptable, but luckily, the are usually easy to fix without deletion. If you or an immediate relative are called for deletion, read Wikipedia:Biographies of living persons/Help; I consider a request from the subject (or his/her heirs) to be a primary consideration.

My take-away[edit]

So, what does this mean to me when I consider deletion?

Simply being a soldier or sailor is not enough. Nor is participation in a war or campaign, deployment, or fighting in a specific battle or skirmish. Earning awards for valor is usually not enough unless it's the highest two, a significant number, or earned in an especially spectacular manner. Death in war, while tragic, does not confer notability. Notibility is not inherited by family or proximity. Being mentioned on unit rolls/rosters or on memorial sites does not establish notibility. Being mentioned in passing in a media work (such as film or book) isn't enough; there must some depth to it. Blogging or being filmed/photographed doesn't cut it. A person's life before/after military serivce that is independant of that service may have independant notability, but if not, adding the two is usually not enough for notability either. When considering a person notable for a single event, living or not, I am forced to use my judgement regarding the notability of that event and the person's involvement therein.

I avoid nominating or voteing to delete based on actionable issues unless it is very serious (such as copyright or BLP). I figure it's better to have a mess that is going to be improved than nothing at all. That means that Manual of Style issues are not a valid deletion rationale to me. Likewise, I consider the distinction between notability and fame/noteriety. Consider the lasting impact of notability: is the person going to be known to more than a specific group? Will he or she be known years from now, or ever featured in a historic work?

The resolution[edit]

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 for an individual to do about it.

Ironically enough, I regard myself as an inclusionist, and I take a eventualist view of article quality. This means that an article I nominate for deletion is not done on a whim, nor is it done with regards to the quality of the article. I believe that any article, no matter how broken or poorly written can be salvaged with careful editing if the appropriate reliable sources and references are available (with the only exception of WP:copyright violations; see the OTRS if you submitted your own copywritten material). But even an article of exceptional quality can lack sufficient proof notability to be included in Wikipedia, so further editing does not resolve the issue. If a person is notable, there will be published refrences somewhere about him or her. If they aren't, I will explain why in the deletion rationale.

Often, I'm willing to consider a merge and/or redirect. Sometimes, the event is more notable than the individual, and the article can be converted from a biography. Other times, the person's noteriety is linked to somebody or something else, and a redirect is 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).

Ultimately, however, articles I nominate for notability tend to get deleted, and I don't usually stick my neck out for an unsound rationale. There is considerable precedent for the kinds of nominations I make. If the article is deleted and you still disagree, you can try talking to the closing administrator, or Deletion review.

The bottom line[edit]

I'm not trying to disrespect or insult anyone, especially the fallen. Any negative opinions I have about individuals is not expressed on Wikipedia. If I've nominated an article you've written for deletion, don't take it personally. If I vote in a deletion discussion in a way you disagree with, follow the same advice. Think objectively about refuting my arguments with evidence and policy. If I'm wrong or you uncover something I was unaware of, I will note my change of mind and withdraw the nom/change my vote as necessary. Don't try to bully or lecture me, and don't appeal to my emotions. If we come to an impasse, recognize it and end a futile argument that is unlikely to be productive.


  1. ^ Revision as of 00:06, 10 November 2010
  2. ^ Including but not limited to newspapers, books and e-books, magazines, television and radio documentaries, reports by government agencies, and scientific journals. In the absence of multiple sources, it must be possible to verify that the source reflects a neutral point of view, is credible and provides sufficient detail for a comprehensive article. Sources are not required to be available online, and they are not required to be in English.
  3. ^ Lack of multiple sources suggests that the topic may be more suitable for inclusion in an article on a broader topic. Mere republications of a single source or news wire service do not always constitute multiple works. Several journals simultaneously publishing articles in the same geographic region about an occurrence, does not always constitute multiple works, especially when the authors are relying on the same sources, and merely restating the same information. Specifically, several journals publishing the same article within the same geographic region from a news wire service is not a multiplicity of works.
  4. ^ Works produced by the subject, or those with a strong connection to them, are unlikely to be strong evidence of notability. See also: Wikipedia:Conflict of interest for handling of such situations.
  5. ^ Moreover, not all coverage in reliable sources constitutes evidence of notability for the purposes of article creation; for example, directories and databases, advertisements, announcements columns, and minor news stories are all examples of coverage that may not actually support notability when examined, despite their existence as reliable sources.
  6. ^ Revision as of 22:09, 11 November 2010
  7. ^ Encarta dictionary definition Retrieved 13 March 2008
  8. ^ What constitutes a "published work" is deliberately broad.
  9. ^ Sources that are pure derivatives of an original source can be used as references, but do not contribute toward establishing the notability of a subject. "Intellectual independence" requires not only that the content of sources be non-identical, but also that the entirety of content in a published work not be derived from (or based in) another work (partial derivations are acceptable). For example, a speech by a politician about a particular person contributes toward establishing the notability of that person, but multiple reproductions of the transcript of that speech by different news outlets do not. A biography written about a person contributes toward establishing his or her notability, but a summary of that biography lacking an original intellectual contribution does not.
  10. ^ Autobiography and self-promotion are not the routes to having an encyclopaedia article. The barometer of notability is whether people independent of the subject itself have actually considered the subject notable enough that they have written and published non-trivial works that focus upon it. Thus, entries in biographical dictionaries that accept self-nominations (such as the Marquis Who's Who) do not prove notability.
  11. ^ Non-triviality is a measure of the depth of content of a published work, and how far removed that content is from a simple directory entry or a mention in passing that does not discuss the subject in detail. A credible 200-page independent biography of a person that covers that person's life in detail is non-trivial, whereas a birth certificate or a 1-line listing on an election ballot form is not. Database sources such as Notable Names Database, Internet Movie Database and Internet Adult Film Database are not considered credible since they are, like wikis, mass-edited with little oversight. Additionally, these databases have low, wide-sweeping generic standards of inclusion.
  12. ^ Generally, a person who is "part of the enduring historical record" will have been written about, in depth, independently in multiple history books on that field, by historians. A politician who has received "significant press coverage" has been written about, in depth, independently in multiple news feature articles, by journalists. An actor who has been featured in magazines has been written about, in depth, independently in multiple magazine feature articles, by magazine article writers. An actor or TV personality who has "an independent biography" has been written about, in depth, in a book, by an independent biographer.
  13. ^ It is important for editors to understand two clear differentiations of WP:BIO1E when compared to WP:BLP1E. Firstly, WP:BLP1E should be applied only to biographies of living people. Secondly, WP:BLP1E should be applied only to biographies of low profile individuals.
  14. ^ Revision as of 20:04, 26 October 2010
  15. ^ Revision as of 13:47, 10 November 2010
  16. ^ This provision is not intended to encompass lists of links to articles within Wikipedia that are used for internal organization or to describe a notable subject.
  17. ^ See Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Rex071404
  18. ^ In the interests of transparency, I will disclose that I am heavily involved in the editing of both example articles (Jason Dunham & Chance Phelps).

See also[edit]