Why I am a mergist, and you should be too
(originally posted to WikiEN-l, 10 Sep 05)
What I don't quite understand is the opposition many people have to merging small articles into larger ones: schools into school district articles, fictional characters into book articles, city landmarks into city articles.
With some articles you suggest merging and the creators respond as if you wanted to delete the article entirely. I regard merging as an improvement: information wants context, in order to be useful; maybe it doesn't add to your article count, but it adds to the usefulness of the encyclopedia.
"Wiki is not paper" is often cited—but it's a stronger argument for merging information than leaving small articles separate: since Wiki is not paper, redirects are easy, and we do not have to worry about someone having to pull out separate volumes and flip pages if directed elsewhere. We don't have to make sure there's a scrap of information at every conceivable search term; that's what redirects and the search function are for. Articles that are "cruft" on their own (and I do try to use the term only jokingly!) can be a helpful bit of detail in a larger picture.
It doesn't really hurt to have lots of small trivial articles (I'm deliberately ignoring referencing issues here; Dpbsmith already made that position perfectly clear), but it's a case where the whole is indeed generally greater than the sum of its parts. Not only that, a large article which gets many visitors is far easier to maintain -- keep updated, patrol for vandalism, etc. -- than a collection of small articles which get relatively few visitors each.
Where such an article can't be merged into something larger, it's probably because it is too trivial for the next broader level of detail and probably shouldn't be included at all (for example, I wouldn't even be worth mentioning in my university's article: it would rightly get deleted were a sentence about me to be added) -- or if it should be included, indicative that we have a big gaping hole somewhere in our coverage and need to write the article for the next broader level (for example, an individual folk song from a country on which there is no "music of X" article yet).