User:Pixelface/On NOTPLOT

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The policy Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not (aka WP:NOT) should absolutely not include a section on plot summaries. WP:NOT#PLOT {oldid} should not and cannot be policy. The following are some reasons why that is:

  • 02) As of now, there are 2,841,682 articles on Wikipedia[7] and 1,051,174 of those articles are under Category:Fiction (going as deep as 10 sub-categories)[8]. Sub-categories that probably do not contain plot-only articles include: Category:Authors of books about writing fiction with 22 articles, Category:Fiction magazines with 226 articles, and Category:Fiction writers with 16,649 articles. That leaves 1,034,277 articles that WP:NOT#PLOT likely applies to. That's over 36% — over one-third of the articles on Wikipedia. Any policy that applies to over one-third of Wikipedia's articles better have strong consensus to be policy. But WP:NOT#PLOT does not. Wikipedia currently has over 9.4 million registered accounts[9], and over 158,000 users have made at least one edit in the last 30 days. How many editors have edited those 1,034,277 articles? Six editors cannot force all of those other editors to do their bidding. Wikipedia is not a totalitarian regime. Policies are supposed to describe standards that have community consensus. Policies are supposed to have wide acceptance among editors. Consensus for policies should be reasonably strong. Policies are supposed to state what most Wikipedians agree upon. You cannot claim consensus where none exists. WP:NOT#PLOT does not have consensus to be policy.
  • 03) WP:NOT#PLOT is frequently misunderstood. Many editors seem to think that WP:NOT#PLOT is about the length of every plot summary on Wikipedia, but it does not place limits on every plot summary on Wikipedia. WP:NOT#PLOT is about plot-only articles. WP:NOT#PLOT has also been wrongly used as justification to remove any plot summary from any article whatsoever.
  • 05) WP:NOT#PLOT is bureaucracy for bureaucracy's sake. There have been times where there has been no consensus to delete plot-only articles, and yet admins have deleted the articles anyway [24] [25][26] because of WP:NOT#PLOT's presence on Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not — ignoring and dismissing the actual AFD discussion that admins are entrusted by the community to evaluate. Wikipedia is not intended to be an online Milgram experiment. Wikipedia is a collaborative educational resource. Policies only exist to that end. If admins are just going to blindly follow rules and not read what AFD participants have written, then Wikipedia should not have an AFD process. An editor does not speak for the entire community merely by clicking "edit this page" on a policy page. Wikipedia is a wiki, and that applies to articles as well as policies.
  • 06) Sections of WP:NOT are frequently cited in AFD nominations. Several editors have said that a plot-only article is merely a cleanup issue, but AFD is not for cleanup. Many plot-only articles can feasibly be merged into existing articles. If an article can be merged, AFD is not the proper venue. Many plot-only articles have been merged after being nominated for deletion. [27] [28] [29] [30] [31] Some plot summaries have been split off[32] from existing articles, and later the plot summary nominated for deletion for violating WP:NOT#PLOT.[33] If an editor can split off a plot summary from an article, and then the plot summary can be nominated for deletion for violating WP:NOT#PLOT, that is gaming the system.
  • 07) Wikipedia was launched in January 2001. Wikipedia existed for nearly 5 1/2 years without WP:NOT#PLOT as a policy, and during that time Wikipedia did not fall apart. Several of Wikipedia's currently featured articles, if an editor created them today, would likely be nominated for deletion due to WP:NOT#PLOT's presence in WP:NOT. See The Adventures of Tintin, Batman, The Log from the Sea of Cortez, Romeo and Juliet[34] [35], etc. If they had been deleted in their early stages by that wrongheaded policy, it would have been to the detriment of Wikipedia and its readers.
  • 08) Some editors have said that if a plot-only article could not ever possibly be a Featured article, it should be deleted. That is completely unrealistic. Featured articles are articles that are featured on the Main Page because editors consider them some of Wikipedia's best work. As of now, Wikipedia has 2,841,801 total articles and 2,489 featured articles. That's about 1/10th of 1% of Wikipedia's articles. Only around 1 in 1141 articles is a featured article. We do not delete articles for being non-featured. The potential of an article to contain more than plot summary is often not a factor at all in AFD debates.[36] [37]
  • 11) The editor who proposed WP:NOT#PLOT said "The intention was that it be used as a tool to improve articles away from being plot, rather than a tool to delete articles about plot."[40] But the policy Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not is a tool to delete articles.
  • 12) The section WP:NOT#PLOT has been edited over 200 times since it was added to WP:NOT.[41] If there is no agreement on the wording of a policy, it cannot be policy. There is even a thread on WT:NOT right now about the wording of WP:NOT#PLOT (oldid). The section of policy that WP:NOT#PLOT belongs under is also frequently argued over.
  • 13) The policy WP:NOT has been protected multiple times for disputes over WP:NOT#PLOT. It was most recently protected June 26, 2009 for 1 week[42]. Before then, it was protected June 16, 2009 for 1 day[43]. Before then, it was protected May 12, 2009 for 2 weeks[44]. Before then, it was protected May 5, 2009 for 3 days[45]. Before then, it was protected April 24, 2009 for 3 days[46] (later changed to 1 week[47]) Before then, it was protected April 6, 2009 for 3 days.[48] Before then, it was protected on February 6, 2009 for 1 week.[49] Before then, it was protected on December 30, 2008 for 1 month [50], although it was unprotected 3 days later[51] after my request for unprotection.[52] It was also protected on May 13, 2008[53].
  • 14) Wikipedia is obviously not a plot summary; Wikipedia is an encyclopedia project. But encyclopedias and Wikipedia articles do provide plot summaries.
  • 15) Plot summaries are considered acceptable on Wikipedia. An article about a fictional work is expected to contain a plot summary. In order to educate readers about a story, you must give a summary of the story — a plot summary.
  • 16) Mike Godwin, General Counsel for the Wikimedia Foundation, has said that Wikipedia is not receiving DMCA takedown letters for plot summaries. Godwin has said that "plot summaries, in general, are not taken to be copyright infringement so long as they do not include any great degree of the original creative expression."[54] If an article is simply a plot summary, it does not necessarily infringe on any copyrights. Wikipedia editors are free to summarize copyrighted works and describe them in their own words. And Wikipedia already has a policy about copyrights, Wikipedia:Copyright.
  • 17) Plot summaries do not turn Wikipedia into an indiscriminate collection of information. WP:NOT#PLOT's placement under the heading "Wikipedia is not an indiscriminate collection of information" has always been a clumsy, mis-matched fit. Humans of all cultures have told stories for thousands and thousands of years. Wikipedia is an electronic encyclopedia, funded by donations. It is not constrained by printing costs. But that doesn't mean that Wikipedia must have articles about every single story ever imagined. Wikipedia volunteers can and do decide what articles Wikipedia should have. Human editors do the discriminating. WP:NOT#PLOT does not. The particular story that has been summarized is what matters, not the fact that a story has been summarized.
  • 18) People have argued that if an article is just a plot summary then the topic of the article must be non-notable. That is false. An article about a book is not the actual book. An article about a film is not the actual film. And so on. That is obvious. An article is simply an entry in a database on Wikipedia's servers, containing a description of a subject. And it's possible to write a plot-only article entirely from third-party sources. Wikipedia:Notability is not a policy anyway; a recent proposal to make it policy failed. The editor who rewrote Wikipedia:Notability in September 2006 is the same editor who tagged it a guideline after 16 days and later he edit-warred over the guideline tag.[55]. Therefore, Wikipedia:Notability's status as a guideline is also questionable.
  • 19) Several revisions of Wikipedia:Notability (fiction) have been based around WP:NOT#PLOT, yet those proposals have failed to gain consensus. Wikipedia talk:Notability (fiction) has 51 talkpage archives, over twice as many as Wikipedia talk:What Wikipedia is not. At any given time, WT:FICT is a trainwreck, and the amount of time people spend arguing there instead of adding value to articles is detrimental to the project. Much of the dispute at WT:FICT can be traced back to Deckiller's proposal that was created June 5, 2007.[56]. Deckiller is one of the editors who supported WP:NOT#PLOT when it was first proposed. In June 2007, Deckiller advertised his rewrite of WP:FICT at WT:NOT.[57] Deckiller is a bureaucrat and admin on[58][59], and added the Wikia link to WP:FICT.
  • 20) What a critic thinks about Hamlet, while perhaps interesting to read, is not actually necessary for readers to learn what the play is. But what happens during the story is necessary information. What the author writes himself is more important than what other people feel about what he has written. Opinions about a fictional work may be shared by a certain number of people, but they are still just the opinions of the people expressing them. An article lacking a critic's opinion is not a good reason to delete an article.
  • 22) When editors began widely applying WP:NOT#PLOT, it was met with strong resistance by the community. If a policy does not have consensus in practice, it does not actually have community-wide consensus.
  • 23) WP:NOT#PLOT is one of the factors that led to the arbitration cases E&C1 and E&C2. The actions of the editor who was "enforcing" WP:NOT#PLOT, TTN, were so controversial among the community that he was placed under a six month editing restriction by the arbitration committee. That WP:NOT#PLOT would be extremely contentious was predicted when WP:NOT#PLOT was first proposed.
  • 25) Editors who have removed WP:NOT#PLOT from Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not have been wrongly and harmfully labeled "vandals." I've personally been labeled a "vandal" after removing WP:NOT#PLOT from WP:NOT by the editors Sceptre[107] and Jack Merridew[108] [109], both of whom were indefinitely blocked in 2008.[110] [111][3]
  • 26) Wikipedia has no importance policy, and whether a story is "important" or not is simply personal preference and not for Wikipedia to decide. A story typically has strong importance to the culture it originated from. The English Wikipedia should not provide information on only the stories that self-selected English-speaking volunteer editors with access to the Internet and enough free time to contribute to Wikipedia find important.
  • 27) "In-universe perspective" is not actually the problem that some people make it out to be. Once a reader is told that a topic is fictional or about a fictional work, it's assumed that any plot summary that follows is about the story. Fiction is written about in the present tense. That does not mean that the events of the story are actually happening now. Lack of development information is also not the problem that some people make it out to be. Fiction is imagined. How a myth or legend or fable or parable or fairy tale or nursery rhyme came to be is frequently unknown, and nobody complains about lack of development information regarding those topics.
  • 28) WP:NOT#PLOT damages Wikipedia. It is one of Wikipedia's most harmful policies. Much valuable information is lost because of its pointless instruction creep. Information about many valuable cultural artifacts, that scores of people are interested in, know about, spend money on, and are familiar with, are removed from Wikipedia (or face removal from Wikipedia) due to WP:NOT#PLOT.
  • 29) It's been argued that Wikipedia is not CliffsNotes, not, not TVGuide, etc as reasons against plot-only articles. It's true that Wikipedia is not CliffsNotes, nor, nor TVGuide — but those are all third-party sources that can be cited in articles. An encyclopedia of fiction would be expected to have information about fictional works — that requires a summary of the story, a plot summary. Just because information is available elsewhere is not a reason for Wikipedia to not have it. In fact, information on Wikipedia typically should be available elsewhere. Encyclopedia Britannica has articles about World War II, and Shakespeare, and the Sun, and Venezuela, and nobody says "Wikipedia is not Encyclopedia Britannica" as reasons to eliminate those articles from Wikipedia. Nobody points to articles that transclude {{1911}} and argues to delete them saying "Wikipedia is not the Eleventh Edition of Encyclopædia Britannica."
  • 30) A plot summary is simply a summary of a story. All articles provide summaries of a subject, so why single out stories? Why not the policy "Articles are not simply battle summaries"? Why not "Articles are not simply summaries of a person's life?" Why not "Articles are not simply summaries of the periodic table?" An article that is simply a plot summary can probably be improved, but you can't improve an article that no longer exists — which WP:NOT#PLOT encourages by saying plot-only articles are what Wikipedia is not.
  • 31) It's a trivial task to make an article contain more that just a plot summary. The sentence "Euphrasie Tholomyès, nicknamed Cosette (also nicknamed The Lark), is a fictional character in the novel Les Misérables by Victor Hugo." is not a plot summary, and yet many editors would claim the article Cosette "violates" WP:NOT#PLOT — because it currently lacks information on "development, reception, and significance." Information on "development, reception, and significance" is not a requirement in Wikipedia articles. And I don't think the policy Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not can require it anyway, since that policy is a list of things Wikipedia is not. Someone could try and say "Articles without development, reception, and significance information is what Wikipedia is not", but that would be completely untrue.
  • 32) The following are some articles that do not meet WP:NOT#PLOT's current wording: The Dog in the Manger (oldid), an article created July 8, 2005 about one of Aesop's fables; Cosette (oldid), an article written November 14, 2006, about a character in the novel Les Miserables; Baldrick, an article created October 2, 2001 about a character in the television series Blackadder. Two of those articles were written before WP:NOT#PLOT was added to the policy WP:NOT. WP:NOT#PLOT says those articles are things Wikipedia is not. Things Wikipedia is not is a reason for deletion. Should those articles, in their current state, be deleted? Would deleting those articles benefit the readers of Wikipedia in any way?
  • 33) I believe that WP:NOT#PLOT poses a serious conflict of interest. Wikipedia was co-founded by Jimbo Wales. Wikipedia is currently operated by the Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit organization. Wikicities (later re-renamed Wikia, Inc) was co-founded by Jimbo Wales and Angela Beesley in 2004. Wikia is operated by Wikia, Inc, a for-profit company. Due to the influence of policy on Wikipedia, WP:NOT#PLOT encourages the deletion of fiction content (plot-only articles) from Wikipedia that will frequently later appear on Wikia, where such content then begins to generate a profit for Jimbo Wales. I believe this poses a serious conflict of interest, for Jimbo Wales and the Wikimedia Foundation. The policy WP:NOT#PLOT provides financial benefit to Jimbo Wales.

    WP:NOT#PLOT currently links to WP:WAF.[112] WP:WAF was created by Amcaja in his userspace on March 27, 2006 — the same day that a press release came out saying that Wikicities was renamed Wikia, Inc. It was moved to Wikipedia:Manual of Style (writing about fiction) on May 29, 2006. WP:WAF was marked a guideline after 18 days on June 16, 2006 by Hiding. 13 days later, on June 29, 2006, Hiding proposed WP:NOT#PLOT, based on WP:WAF. Since the day it was created, WP:WAF has mentioned Wookieepedia, a wiki related to Star Wars that was mentioned in that March 27 press release. Wookieepedia is hosted on Wikia, and is Wikia's second largest wiki.[113] Wookieepedia was created upon the suggestion of the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees, which at the time included Jimbo Wales and Angela Beesley. Jimbo Wales and Angela Beesley are the individuals who founded Wikicities. I also believe that that is a serious conflict of interest. Angela Beesley (User:Angela) has edited several Wikia templates that exist on Wikipedia.

    The editor who proposed WP:NOT#PLOT is also the editor who tagged WP:WAF a guideline. And the editor who proposed WP:NOT#PLOT originally had articles about comic book characters in mind. Seven minutes before proposing WP:NOT#PLOT, the editor mentioned as an alternative outlet for such information.

    In 2007, the Wikimedia Foundation put out a press release saying "Wikia, Inc. is not the commercial counterpart to Wikipedia or the Wikimedia Foundation." The Wikipedia policy Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not and the guideline Wikipedia:Manual of Style (writing about fiction) both mention Wikia wikis as alternative outlets for content not suitable for Wikipedia, and those pages puts that statement by the Wikimedia Foundation into doubt. The fact that Star Wars wiki (later renamed Wookieepedia) was created on Wikicities upon the suggestion of the WMF Board of Trustees also puts that statement into doubt.
  • 34) On April 14, 2009, the editor Locke9k started a straw poll at WT:NOT asking the question "In principle, do you think that WP:NOT should include a section on plot summaries?" and the majority of people said "No, it should not." The RFC was closed on May 22, 2009 with the closing admin Quadell saying "There is no consensus on whether NOT should include a section on plot summaries or not." There is no consensus for WP:NOT#PLOT to be policy. Anyone who says there is is lying. 145 people commented, with 66 people saying "Yes, it should", 69 people saying "No, it should not", and 10 people expressing neutral opinions. If one leaves out the neutral opinions, the people opposed to Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not having a section on plot summaries was 51.1%, over half, and the people in favor of that page having a section on plot summaries was 48.9%, less than half. WP:NOT#PLOT simply does not have consensus to be policy. If one includes the neutral opinions, the people opposed to Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not having a section on plot summaries was 47.6%, less than 50%, but still more than the people in favor of that policy page having a section on plot summaries, 45.5%.

    A reasonable person cannot look at the straw poll and declare that WP:NOT#PLOT is a "widely accepted standard" which is what policies supposedly are according to Template:Policy ("This page documents an official English Wikipedia policy, a widely accepted standard that should normally be followed by all editors.") [114], and the policy Wikipedia:Policies and guidelines — "Our policies are considered standards that should be followed...", "Policies and guidelines describe standards that have community consensus and apply to all editors.", "Policies have wide acceptance among editors and are considered a standard that, with rare exceptions, all users should follow", "Consensus for guidelines and policies should be reasonably strong, but unanimity is not required.", "Does the community generally believe that Wikipedia is better off with, or without, the proposed guideline or policy?", "Policies and guidelines state what most Wikipedians agree upon, and should reflect the present consensus on a subject.", "If there is no consensus for a given text, old or new, it should not be asserted as though it were consensus..."[115]

--Pixelface (talk) originally written 08:50, 17 April 2009 (UTC)


  1. ^ These are the six people I count as supports in the proposal thread. Hiding said "any objections to adding the following to Wikipedia is not an indiscriminate collection of information?" JzG said "Strong support. It's almost impossible to do a plot summary without either original research or copyvio.." (which isn't true, but okay). Rossami said "I'll support it as well even if it will be difficult to apply." (which is definitely some foreshadowing). MartinRe said "Conditional support." Mwalcoff said "My views are along the lines of Hiding's. I don't think an article should be nothing but a plot summary. But if we're going to have a complete article on a work, I think a plot summary is an important thing to include." At first, Deckiller said "Disagree" and "WP:NOT's major weakness is that its policies leave AfD voters with a black and white view, when that clearly cannot be the case with so many branches of knowledge and styles of articles." (more foreshadowing) But then Deckiller said "Yeah, I like that wording a lot."

    These are the six people I count as not supporting in the proposal thread. Leflyman used "Not going to happen" in his edit summary and said "I think this would be an extremely contentious issue, as the vast slew of articles dealing with television shows, film, books and comics go beyond merely "plot points" into full summaries. I would not be surprised if that's a major chunk of the many articles on fictional topics. For example, the Wikipedia:WikiProject Television episodes is specifically set up to create episode summaries. See, Category:Lists of television series episodes." (that's foreshadowing of E&C1 and E&C2) Leflyman also happened to mention Wikia (possibly since Hiding mentioned WP:WAF in his proposal and WAF has mentioned Wikia ever since Hiding marked it a guideline, or maybe he was just aware of it). Leflyman later said said "Saying it would be "difficult to apply" is a bit of an understatement. I suspect that if this were to be seriously promoted, a veritable rebellion would be fomented on Wikipedia." (more foreshadowing of E&C1 and E&C2) and "Nearly everything on Wikipedia is, in effect, a "summary" so why stop at "plots"?" Will Beback used "yes but no" in his edit summary and said "I agree with the intent of this proposal, but I'm afraid that Leflyman is correct in that there are huge numbers of plot summaries on Wikipedia (most dutifully marked with "spoiler alerts"). It will take more than a change to WP:NOT to make them go away. But I support the effort." I suppose that could possibly be interpreted as support by some people (I support the effort, I agree with the intent of the proposal), but the edit summary ("yes but no") is also telling. Badlydrawnjeff said "I don't mind it in theory, to be honest. But here's the bigger question - is it worth the drama, and does it really improve anything? I'm certainly aware of the OR issues here, but are we really improving the encyclopedia if we remove plot summaries?" I suppose that could also possibly be interpreted as support by some people ("I don't mind it in theory"), but the edit summary "improvement? drama?" and the statement "is it worth the drama, and does it really improve anything?" is telling. Badlydrawnjeff's comment in February 2007, "I've refrained from adding things to policy/guideline pages with less opposition." is also telling. JeffW said "I don't really see that plot summaries break any of the above policies. The article on IBM is a summary of all the information that could be written about IBM. Is it therefore necessarily original research or POV? As for copyright issues, IANAL but I would think plot summaries would fall under fair use." Williamborg said "Oppose — They are wonderfully useful for those who are trying to translate; they often provide the clues missing when you get mired in the original text. Instead of rooting plot summaries out, encourage them to grow into respectable analyses." Tomstar81 said "Oppose — I agree with Mwalcoff and Leflyman on this one. Plot summaries always play a part in character role and development. Striking them down puts a tremendous strain on those of us who try hard to write on fictional characters, which is hard enough as is."

    In summary, in the proposal thread the editors I count as supporting are Hiding, JzG, Rossami, MartinRe, Mwalcoff, and Deckiller. The editors I count as not supporting are Leflyman, Will Beback, Bdj, JeffW, Williamborg, and Tomstar81. Tomstar81 made his comment on August 26, 2006. By that time, Hiding had already added WP:NOT#PLOT to WP:NOT on July 9, 2006. If you don't include TomStar81, and if you don't include the editor who proposed WP:NOT#PLOT, it was supported by five editors and not supported by five editors before WP:NOT#PLOT was added to WP:NOT.

    In February 2007, in this thread, Matthew asked "was there ever an actual consensus to add this?" Badlydrawnjeff, who was there when WP:NOT#PLOT was proposed said "The only relevant discussion appeared to be here, and, I'll be honest, it didn't seem to have much in the way of consensus." Later Matthew said "Okay, so it appears there was never a consensus to add this in the first place."
  2. ^ John254 listed me as an involved party of E&C2 after Corvus cornix started an ANI thread that falsely accused me of "stalking" TTN after he saw me unredirecting Scrubs episode articles. I was unredirecting them since I could see there was no consensus for the redirects on Talk:List of Scrubs episodes. John254 is currently banned. I removed WP:NOT#PLOT from WP:NOT for the first time on March 10, 2008 after I could see that WP:NOT#PLOT did not actually have consensus to be policy (after seeing multiple AFDs where there was no consensus to delete articles that were simply plot summaries (some that were SNOW kept), and based on the controversy that TTN had caused). Editors who have removed WP:NOT#PLOT from Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not have often been hounded by ideologically opposed editors, and editors who have expressed prejudice and negative personal POVs against much fiction in general. Neutral point of view is a policy, and is expected of all editors. Personal tastes and dislike of a certain fictional work should play no part in the decision to keep or delete an article, or the poor decision to hound another editor.
  3. ^ I was blocked twice in 2008[1], both times after interactions with Sceptre, who was an involved party of E&C1 *and* E&C2. After I removed WP:NOT#PLOT from WP:NOT twice on April 16, 2008, Sceptre reported me as a vandal to AIV and I was blocked by AGK. Disgusted, I left Wikipedia. AGK started a block review thread at WP:AN, where multiple editors stated that my edits were not vandalism [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]. While I was gone, Sceptre told TTN, another involved party of E&C1 *and* E&C2 that it was "good news" that I left Wikipedia. I came back after a week, found out, repeatedly asked Sceptre about the policy Wikipedia:Vandalism and WP:AIV, Sceptre kept removing my questions, called me a "troll", and then I was blocked for "harassing" Sceptre after Sceptre started this ANI thread about me.