User:Jean-Francois Gariepy/Preservation Details

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On Preservationist Rationale[edit]

The beginning of the article "Encyclopedia" in Diderot's Encyclopédie
The beginning of the article "Encyclopedia" in Diderot's Encyclopédie

The original idea of Wikipedia:Notability was to explain more thoroughly statements in the "What Wikipedia is not" such as Wikipedia is not an indiscriminate collection of information and Wikipedia is not a directory of everything that exists or has existed. We agree with those statements in the sense that it is impossible to collect everything that exists; for example a detailed MRI scan of every ant in existence would be useless, impossible to make, and certainly not of encyclopedic interest.

However, we disagree with the way the rule is presented, and sometimes with the way the rule is used along with the encouragements to use secondary and tertiary, rather than primary sources. This recommendation and the notability rule fail to acknowledge the inherent preservationist function of all encyclopedias that have ever existed. To put it more simply: it's not because nobody ever cared about a subject that we, as encyclopedia editors, have to stop caring about it too.

This does not mean we want primary sources and non-notable topics exploding inside Wikipedia. This does not mean that Wikipedia has to become a museum where original research is going on. All we want is to feel that other people in the community, like us, feel that preservation of knowledge is in fact one of the goals of an encyclopedia. Diderot himself said that the goal of an Encyclopedia was to gather knowledge from everywhere on the surface of the Earth, present its general structure to the men who live with us, and forward it to those who will come after.

Jimmy Wales said "Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge." The very word Encyclopedia contains the etymological roots of a "circle" around all "knowledge". If we continue to delete articles based on the sole fact that "it's not popular enough," "it doesn't rank high enough on Google," or because "no secondary sources are cited," we give up on our role not only as Wikipedians, but as humans to carry knowledge from the past to the next generations. All under the rationale of "it wasn't quoted by anyone".

How many oral languages have not been quoted by anyone? How many authors have written books that were not talked about in any intellectual circle or press conferences? How many scientists have reported experiences that have only been read by a few specialist colleagues?


  • A change in the Notability rule stating that the decision of deleting an article on a subject with some historical value—even if no secondary sources were found—should not be taken solely on the basis of non-notability (though it could be deleted for other reasons, such as low quality, non-neutral, etc.)
  • A change in the sources description stating that although secondary and tertiary sources are good to show the notability of a subject, some subjects for which we have only primary sources (for instance, the very works/poems/writings of the person) still have an historical value in themselves, and should be covered in the encyclopedia.

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