I am currently inactive. Please feel welcome to leave a message on my talk page, but be aware that I won't be checking it very often.
You might see me occasionally make minor edits to articles as I read them.
I've been a Wikipedian since 25 October 2004. I haven't been active in editing since early 2007, but I use Wikipedia a lot (to learn/research) and I make minor edits where I stumble across things that need minor editing.
In the rare instances that I do get time, I take part mainly in maintenance and disambiguation, though admittedly this isn't often. I very rarely contribute content to an article—only in the few cases where I have had something to offer. I don't like to claim credit for articles; we're all part of a team here.
A main area of interest of mine has been disambiguation, including its style guide. I've also tended to have a strong interest in the Manual of Style, and in particular, its dates and numbers sub-page.
I wrote these rants in late 2006. While, by and large, my opinions haven't changed, the subtle details of them might have been refined slightly, and if they have, these rants haven't been updated for it.
Wikipedia is an encyclopedia
I have seen many a time the phrase "Wikipedia is not paper" quoted. Also often noted is the joy of wiki editing. These are both indeed valid; however this does not excuse Wikipedia from encyclopedic standards. Wikipedia's not being paper allows wikilinks, tables, templates and so-on; stylistic expectations are still as if it were paper. Its wiki nature allows constant refinement and improvement, not the right of editors to act against guidelines. Encyclopedic standards must still be maintained — indeed, this is, as our traditional rivals point out, where we are weak. While editors should not be bound by these conditions, for that is after all the joy of wiki editing, all participants should, as I discuss below, respect changes to make sure that this is indeed an encyclopedia.
To include or not to include?
I am a mergist. I think that there are a lot of stubs and articles that will never become articles for the plain reason that there really isn't that much to write about them. Most things for which it is impossible to write a history or a detailed analysis on should be under a more general heading, and that thing made a redirect. Duplicate information should never exist. There are, indeed, some things which just shouldn't be here; but in the same way not everything that doesn't merit entry in another encyclopedia necessarily doesn't merit entry here.
Every so often, I run into some information on Wikipedia that's interesting, but I wonder why it's here. Should it be found in an encyclopedia, or should it be found somewhere else? Encyclopedia is not necessarily synonymous with information. Long lists of trivia can be fascinating, but inappropriate nonetheless. Extensive details of statistics, team rosters, tables of data, etymologies that can be found somewhere else (and were probably taken off somewhere else) should be found there, not in an encyclopedia. The question, therefore, is, if someone is looking for this information, where would they look? Are they wanting to find out something, or about something? The latter belongs here, the former doesn't.
Manual of Style: Consistency
One thing I think Wikipedia lacks is uniformity in style. I think that style - and only one style - is very important in an encyclopedia. Sometimes there is more than one way that works, but we should pick one of those ways and stick to it. If two ways will work equally, then it doesn't matter which one we use as long as we use one, just for the sake of uniformity and consistency. Our current manuals are nowhere near specific enough. We can never offer alternatives in a manual of style - that defeats its purpose.
Our lack of this in our current manuals is because of the requirement to gain indisputed consensus. While consensus is important, people sometimes stick rigidly to their argument without considering the bigger picture. Trivial matters sometimes end without agreement, which leads to an inconsistency which weakens the encyclopedia. When this is the case, one group of editors should accept the others' way in order for us to move as one project and one encyclopedia, and nothing else.
Manual of Style: Application
The manual of style is for articles, not editors. It is as if it were the goal of every article to conform to the manual. Not all editors have to contribute to this. It is completely unrealistic to expect every editor to be fully acquainted with the manual. It is hence perfectly acceptable for editors to add information without considering the manual. It is not acceptable, however, for editors to edit articles against the manual's provisions, or to revert changes that were made for the manual.
People often complain about instruction creep. The only true instructions are the policies: neutral point of view and so on. Editors need not be worried about instruction creep, as long as they respect changes that other editors are marked "as per MOS". It is the goal of articles, not editors, to be consistent with the manual.
The Wiki Way and Boldness
This is, in my opinion, often misinterpreted. Boldness exists because without it, nothing would ever get done. Everyone still has to work together to create a quality encyclopedia — but if we were to sit and discuss every change there ever was, we'd get nowhere. Boldness and the Wiki Way can work if changes are made boldly for the encyclopedia in good judgement, not mere personal preference or opinion.
My experience with disambiguation pages is that people often look to them as non-automated search engines. Disambiguation only really exists to disambiguate, that is, the entries must have been ambiguous to start with. It is not a list of all possibilities of what someone might possibly encounter. The question here is, could someone looking for that target type in the name of the disambiguation page and reasonably expect to get there? The key phrase is "expect to get there": it does not include expecting to get there eventually, but rather, directly or almost directly. A minimalist approach is ideal with disambiguation pages: less stuff on the disambiguation page means less stuff to sift through to find what you want. Most disambiguation pages would not exceed about five to ten entries.
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