User:Carbon-16/Avoid presenting Wikipedia as anything but an encyclopedia
|This essay contains the advice or opinions of one or more Wikipedia contributors. Essays are not Wikipedia policies or guidelines. Some essays represent widespread norms; others only represent minority viewpoints.|
|This page in a nutshell: Presenting Wikipedia as anything other than an encyclopedia, specifically as a database dump of human knowledge, may be unintentionally misleading, as well as serve to undermine the efficiency of both the public's open editing and the Wikipedia community.|
New contributors, often well-meaning, often contribute articles about their band, forums, website, or what have you, take as literal Jimbo's statement:
"Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That's what we're doing."
While this obviously has its limits, statements such as these, as well as the general downplay of the -pedia part of Wikipedia in the press, unknowingly undermine Wikipedia's credibility and view to the public. When User John Doe hears "the sum of human knowledge", he immediately, and not always with promotional intent, creates an article on his favorite website. Immediately the site is hit with a db-web tag. He is only perhaps notified that the article doesn't meet notability standards - a NP patroller must keep up with the constant flood of articles like this, and then later come back and notify the user of the speedy tag.
In a situation where the user is not notified, said user is, at the least, discouraged from editing anymore. In the "best-case scenario" (as far as that notion can be applied here), the user may be turned off to the project completely, and stop editing. In the worst-case scenario, the user may come back and vandalize for fun or revenge. For example, they may remove the speedy tag, recreate the material, or so forth. Admins are exhausted, the user is angry, and the community's time is wasted on something that could have been nipped in the bud much, much earlier. In a situation where the user is notified, the above may still happen. However, the user is still confused - wasn't it supposed to be the sum of human knowledge, "notable" or not? Obviously, this still causes problems for all involved.
In either of the two situations, the user may become so frustrated as to rant against Wikipedia on his or her blog or on anti-Wikipedian organizations or forums such as Wikipedia Review. A potentially good faith user, by simply being misinformed, is now discouraging their friends or colleagues to contribute to the encyclopedia.
The purpose of this essay is not to attack Jimbo for making the statement referenced above, nor is it to attack anyone for that matter. It is something I've grappled with, come to terms with, and wish to warn others about. I am not rallying against Wikipedia being an encyclopedia. I am a hard line deletionist. These non-notable articles should definitely be deleted as soon as is humanly possible. What I am arguing is that stating that Wikipedia is simply a knowledge directory serves no purpose than to undermine the new page patrollers deleting this crap, the users posting it in good faith and becoming alienated from the project, the admins that have to go through speedy, and so forth simply because their friend told them it'd be cool to add to Wikipedia by mentioning their forums (because it's a directory of everything).
Notability: why is it important for an encyclopedia?
Why not simply allow everyone and their mothers to create an article on what they know, regardless of notability? After seeing a couple people ask about why I support WP:N and the relative oddity of having such a guideline on a digital medium, I'd like to present my argument for why notability is good for an encyclopedia.
First, or a guideline, WP:N is actually rather relaxed. WP:N and WP:RS go hand in hand. Why? WP:N only says that a subject must have significant coverage from reliable sources. If your subject has already been written up in a newspaper or two, it probably already meets both guidelines at once. Without reliable sources, we can't have notability, and without notability, nobody's going to write about something! Does this make WP:N redundant? This was a question that was somewhat sidescraped in the debate over the merger of WP:V, WP:N, WP:NOR, and WP:RS (I hope I got this right..) into WP:ATT. Perhaps notability is separate from reliable sourcing and verification - but in my experience in XfD, speedy, new page patrol, I find that there's little research and press coverage on non-notable topics. Therefore, in summary, WP:N and WP:RS should be thought of simply as one working policy, and because WP:RS is vital to the encyclopedia, WP:N automatically comes with it.
Second, articles that fail to assert notability do not have any place in a general-purpose encyclopedia. Is the reader interested in your Pokemon web-site? Throwing WP:V out the window for a moment, why should the community have to fix up your article on your extremely large collection of baseball cards because your poker club is the one that cares about its maintenance?
Third, and related to the above point, is that non-notable subjects have a tendency to attract articles that only a small group of people can edit and collaborate on. If you write an article about a local bar, only people in your community can fix that article up. This may be fine for a larger city, but what happens when the author of an article on a specific topic (perhaps a webmaster for a NN site) disappears? In this sense, rejection of notability creates a ownership issue, and ownership is bad for a number of reasons.
Fourth, disregarding all the cross-linked policy arguments above, a composition of everything just doesn't work. Hard drive space is getting cheaper, yes, but imagine if a site as popular as Wikipedia (9th most popular site in the world) were to suddenly accept everything from anyone. Bandwidth costs would skyrocket, fair-use images would multiply like rabbits, and more importantly, Wikipedia would be seen as an unprofessional website, a place to add stub articles and advertise your website, promote fringe theories, disguise opinions as knowledge and POV-push, and other things we just don't need.
Perhaps a collection of everything will work someday. An inclusionist's dream, so to speak. But technically, aesthetically, and practically, Wikipedia is not the place for it. Notability is here to stay, and stay it should.
User:A.Z./The reduction of NPOV to verifiability which argues that NPOV reduces to V, which in combination with the points above could mean that every core content policy we have are all the same thing worded differently ;)