Wikipedia:Turning deletion into a good faith process

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Turning deletion into a good faith process was a proposed lightning talk at Wikimania 2007, which didn't actually take place (I think)

Wikipedia has for several years become a famously unfriendly place - in spite of the good intentions of most of the community. Get a bunch of non-Wikipedia wiki people together, and ask them what kind of a community they want to build, and they're likely to agree that they don't want to be like English Wikipedia.

Admins who deal with new inappropriate articles have taken on a stressful job. There's a firehose of articles about people's cats, topics without any evidence of notability, and other nonsense. In the midst of that, it's understandably easy to have a dismissive attitude to new content, and it's easy to overlook valuable content written in an inappropriate way. Just asking admins (and commenters on deletion processes) to "be nice" is not enough.

So how do we be more encouraging to potentially valuable editors, while maintaining the quality of Wikipedia, and not placing extra demands on Wikipedia's gatekeepers?

Better warning templates[edit]

There's too much to do for admins, vandal-fighters WikiGnomes and other editors to engage with every transgressor in a detailed way; templates are a way of putting best practice and careful explanations at everyone's fingertips.

But template warnings could be improved to offer more help to a newbie - rather than just giving a loud message of "STOP, YOU'RE WRONG!"

Using the wrong label isn't helpful. e.g. part of the problem concern with the label "vandalism" for persistently adding non-notable links is that, unless that specific part of the policy is pointed out, a user will interpret that as the plain English meaning of the word vandalism, will think they've been wrongly accused, and perhaps that those reverting their additions are persecuting them. Some Wikipedians might dismiss such attitudes, but the reality is that some people feel that way, and as a wiki with open-editing, and more importantly with a policy of "assume good faith," we need to deal with genuine people as best we can.

In such cases, we're talking about people who have already shown they don't "get" Wikipedia policy (in which case, they're in the majority of the world's population). It will take a clear explanation to get through to them.

When such users are non-native speakers of English, this probably compounds any misunderstanding.

Someone who hasn't yet been blocked should be considered someone worth trying to engage with and explain policy to.

Examples of behavior to avoid:

  • Communication focused on blame for not understanding all the policy.
  • A deletion discussion (Hexayurt) where an admin didn't follow the links given by the article's creator to show that it had been referenced in the NY Times, because it was an indirect link and he assumed it wasn't a valid source rather than actually checking.

The Russian solution[edit]

The Russian Wikipedia doesn't usually delete non-notable articles - standard practice is to move them to userspace. Who knows, that person's cat might just become famous one day. But more realistically, the work they put into the article hasn't been lost, they can put it somewhere more appropriate.

Most importantly this editor has had a more positive experience of Wikipedia, while learning a bit about Wikipedia policy. They may come back and contribute something appropriate and valuable.

Appropedia has a similar approach - see Appropedia:Template:Movenotice: The article [[{{{1}}}]], to which you were the main contributor (or one of the main contributors), has been moved to your userspace, at [[User:Movenotice/{{{1}}}]]. This was done rather than removing the article, in case you had plans to work on it further, and so that the edit history and text are conserved. If it becomes suitable for an article, it can be moved back later.

More options[edit]

Valuable knowledge includes more than what can fit in Wikipedia - so what do we do with the stuff that doesn't fit?

Transwiki[edit]

As noted on Wikipedia:Transwiki #(1.) Send to AfD/Use Proposed Deletion, transwikiing is one option for AfD's. If an article has already been discussed on AfD, and the outcome was to transwiki...

See meta:Help:Transwiki - but shouldn't there be a page on when to transwiki?

"Saving" a deleted article[edit]

I recently discovered Category:Wikipedia administrators willing to provide copies of deleted articles - so another option in being friendlier is to add a note about this to the AFD discussion and to the creator's and contributors' talk pages. Deletionpedia might also be mentioned as a place to look up deleted articles.

This is a hassle though, and wouldn't be needed if we had a "move to userspace" policy.

Relevant policies[edit]