Wikipedia talk:Make omissions explicit

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Make omissions explicit[edit]

Supporters of this rule include:

  • AxelBoldt
  • User:Mark Christensen
  • User:BF
  • Toby Bartels: The valid point that the old rule had is that a Wikipedia article will always be undone -- keeping that unavoidable fact in mind is the way to apply the new rule.
  • Martin - especially where the article would otherwise be misleading - it encourages people to help work on an article.
  • Angela - but only on the talk page, never in the article
  • Joy [shallot] - it makes sense to explicate omissions occasionally, although there are other venues where article expansion is addressed, too

Opponents of this rule include:

  • —Eloquence (please no "to be written" notices in articles!)
  • RickK Strongly oppose. Wikipedia is always a work n progress. That means these things will be everywhere.
  • [[User:Neutrality|Neutrality (hopefully!)]] Ditto.

Always leave something undone[edit]

After discussion, this rule was largely rejected. While there was some initial support when proposed, support slowly dwindled over time. However, it makes for an interesting debating point.

Supporters of the rule "Always leave something undone" include:

Opponents of the rule "Always leave something undone" include:

  • tbc (I could support this if it was titled, "Try to leave something undone." But, then, I dream of the day when Wikipedia 1.0 is released on DVD. It will never be finished, but we should aim for milestones, IMHO.)
  • clasqm
  • Eclecticology (I oppose rules which human nature would render redundant)
  • NetEsq - I am not convinced that the purported purpose of the rule has any rational relationship to the intended means of achieving that purpose, and I suspect that the rule would create all sorts of perverse and unintended consequences.
  • User:Manning Bartlett: this rule does not incite me to do the best I can.
  • User:Eean I agree with the above. But make omissions explicit
  • User:AxelBoldt: A casual visitor to Wikipedia will get the impression that this is an incomplete amateur project in flux. Always write as professional and comprehensive as possible.
  • User:the_ansible: This is kinda silly, Wikipedia will always have things that aren't finished.
  • Belltower: If Wikipedia is ever to be useful to people, extant articles should be in a reasonably complete state at all times.
  • Geronimo Jones: Newcomers are creating stuff so fast, some of it good, some dubious, that there is a huge amount of stuff that needs fixing. No need to deliberately create more.
  • User:MRC: We should not be in the business of intentionally going around making holes where the need not be! If the rule was, "Point out where the article could be expanded," I'd certainly support that.
  • Martin: Yes, make any omissions explicit, but there's no point deliberately creating omissions - rely instead on one's natural fallibility.
  • User:RjLesch: more useful as a description of the way things are than as a rule to be followed.
  • Rotem Dan: As a reader, looking at pages with a comment in the article like "Can someone fill this in?", gives me a sense of inconfidence about Wikipedia's completeness (and accuracy), I am strongly against this.
  • Kaihsu
  • AhmadH: cf "Write buggy code to encourage other people to participate in the development effort of our open source software"
  • Dante Alighieri: This is just silly. It's clearly absurd, I just wonder if it's absurdist.
  • Patrick: There is enough to do anyway, no need to leave things undone on purpose.
  • Tannin: What Patrick said.
  • anon: no Wikipedia article exists in a final form
  • anon: Each article should always be in publishable state at all time.
  • Toby Bartels: The valid point that the old rule had is that a Wikipedia article will always be undone -- keeping that unavoidable fact in mind is the way to apply the new rule.
  • What Eclecticology said. [[User:Neutrality|Neutrality (hopefully!)]]
  • THE KING There will always be some way to improve an article, and to put deliberate places where something needs fixing makes wikipedia look unprofessional in comparison to such encyclopaedias as britannica.

Further Discussion[edit]

I have to say, I was very surprised to see the rule, and I was not surprised at all that there was more opposition against it than support in favour of it.

Isn't this the kind of thing the Talk pages are ideal for? If you think you left something important out, why place an irritating and annoying note on the actual article when you can note it on the Talk page for contributors to see? In fact, perhaps the top of each Talk page should have a bullet-list of things that are missing from the article, so people can pick something to write about or fill in. I did it this way on Talk:Vulcan (Star Trek), for example. -- Timwi 19:12 17 Jun 2003 (UTC)

I agree with Timwi that the Talk page is a better place for remarks about what would be useful to add ("make omissions explicit"), except in special cases. E.g., if a list of the provinces of a country is not complete, I would mention that on the page itself. In such case incompleteness would otherwise be close to incorrectness. - Patrick 23:19 17 Jun 2003 (UTC)

I'm slightly confused about which rule both of you are talking about... and whether you're talking about the same rule! :) Martin
I've refactored appropriately (I've always been meaning to, but it wasn't a high priority...). Watcha think? Martin 20:17 17 Jun 2003 (UTC)
Looks better than before, though I'm still a little worried because the rule doesn't state what kind of ommissions to make explicit, and what exactly entails completeness. Is my rewritten Vulcan (Star Trek) article incomplete because it doesn't mention the time of the Great Awakening? I don't think so. On the other hand, a list of French départements would, of course, be incomplete if it didn't list all 100.
The key difference between the two is that if the list of départements were to list less than 100, it would imply there are less than 100, which is incorrect. However, ommitting the exact time of a historical event (fictional or not) does not imply that it never occurred ;-) -- Timwi 23:13 17 Jun 2003 (UTC)

first person[edit]

Could someone inform a new user what is the rule about writers referring to themselves? In my piece on Dirk Hartog I said that I had seen Dirk Hartog's plate in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam last year. This was instantly removed. Is this not a fact that may be of some interest to someone? Who makes these decisions? Dr Adam Carr

Articles should be written in the third person, so the use of "I" should be avoided at all costs. Usually in a case like this, other Wikipedians would leave advice or guidelines on your Talk page, but this cannot be done unless you login, but it appears with Dirk Hartog you weren't logged in at the time. Fuzheado 09:19, 14 Sep 2003 (UTC)
The comment you added ("I have not been able to locate any biographical information on Hartog") would be better on the article's talk page, which is where I have now moved it to. It doesn't make a lot of sense in the article as no-one knows who the "I" refers to. The article has many authors. See Wikipedia:Most common Wikipedia faux pas for an explanation of this. Angela 09:24, Sep 14, 2003 (UTC)
Thanks for those comments: if that's the policy I will adapt to it. But, Angela, after you removed "I have not been able to locate any biographical information on Hartog," I then wrote "there does not appear to be any biographical information on Hartog," which is not a first-person reference but a statement of fact (at least as far as I know). That was also deleted. Is there a rule against commenting about sources or lack thereof? AC
No, but some Wikipedians get a little over-zealous. ;) It's all a matter of presentation: if you wrote something like Despite the significance of Hartog to the history of Australian exploration, he has been largely ignored by historians, and biographical information is sparse it wouldn't attract a second glance. Personally, I prefer the plain-language version, but there you go. It's a strange place, the 'pedia. Tannin 09:49, 14 Sep 2003 (UTC)
I didn't remove anything. I just copied your comment to the talk page. It had already been deleted by that time. Fuzheado removed the comment you mentioned above with the edit summary "Took out the speculation, since it's not really part of the facts". I can understand why as there isn't really evidence for this - just one anonymous IP claiming that he could not find something does not make it true or indeed worthy for inclusion in the article. The Wikipedia:Verifiability rule may be the one most relevant here. Hope that helps. Angela 09:53, Sep 14, 2003 (UTC)
Comments about the result of your search and speculation would usually be considered background info to be discussed in the Talk pages. Only if research results were "newsworthy" would it be appropriate. Think for a second about what you might see in World Book, Britannica or a history book. I hope you don't take this as a rejection of your contributions, but simply as re-filing them into the right places. With only wiki mechanisms to form the social basis of the online community, the editing and deletion of info might seem abrupt and rude to our face-to-face social sensibilities. So hopefully people hang around long enough to see that Wikipedians are, in general, pretty good natured, cooperative and kind. And your sense of what contributions are appropriate, useful and friendly will adapt. Fuzheado 10:04, 14 Sep 2003 (UTC)

Just add (to be written - biographical information). Martin 15:51, 14 Sep 2003 (UTC)

But not necessarily on the article page. Angela 16:40, Sep 14, 2003 (UTC)


I ran a few queries on the database about the above notes and I found a few pages (at least with todo, fixme, because there is a lot with in progress that are probably legitimate text). Most of these were not links and the pages had not been worked on for a while. I think this sort of litter is not too productive so I removed them. I don't know if it's mentioned somewhere, but there should probably be a standard way to leave notes so that it can be tracked more easily. For example including something like ''This page is still [[Wikipedia:FIXME|in progress]].'' in the article with the rest of the note inside HTML comments. Or it could be left in the talk page, but the former might be better in my opinion. Of course, some people work on temp pages and don't create the article until they're somewhat done. Opinions?

Can you give some example pages? Were they just indications that the page was in progess or were they indications of what needs to be fixed (e.g. "FIXME - add more detail about dorsal fins" or something)? I don't see a problem with these, it seems bad to categorically delete them all if they served some useful purose. Axlrosen 21:04, 18 Nov 2003 (UTC)
I listed a couple at WP:CU and the rest simply had a fixme next to the stub notice. Here's one I deleted [1] Dori 21:14, Nov 18, 2003 (UTC)
I think it would best on the talk page. All pages are in progress, and if someone has comments to make on something that needs fixing, it looks awful to put that in the article itself. For example, Software license has a paragraph which starts "The (FIXME) Act of (FIXME), codified as 17 USC 117, permits...". I think it would be best to reword to include what is known, and someone can add in the additional information at a later date without needing to be told FIXME in the middle of a sentance.
If a link to Wikipedia:FixMe was left on the talk page, you could click what 'links here' and find all the affected pages, without having to write such comments in the actual article.
See also: Wikipedia:Make omissions explicit. Angela 21:12, 18 Nov 2003 (UTC)
Hmmm that page is kind of confusing. Is it actually suggesting to leave notes in the article??? I think that is a terrible idea because those notes will go mostly unnoticed until a reader looks up an article and it looks horrible. I think it is much better to link (maybe from the talk page) to a FIXME site so those pages can be tracked more easily. Dori 22:39, Nov 18, 2003 (UTC)

FIXME and such are common conventions in computer programming but I don't think they work well in wikipedia. First and most importantly, they are distracting. Any article in wikipedia is in progress. You can add FIXME to any article. Some article lacks the birth and death date and some article about an artistic work lacks the social significance of the work. Talk pages or embedded HTML comments are a better solution. -- Taku 21:20, Nov 18, 2003 (UTC)

Yes, that's why I searched for them, my results (using a dump from 2003-11-04 I think) are here: User:Dori/Queries if anyone is interested. What I meant by "in progress" is in immediate/short term progress. Dori 22:39, Nov 18, 2003 (UTC)

Sometimes such things are very useful in resolving NPOV and other disputes and suchlike. See, for example, Open Directory Project (at the time of writing). I think a robotic removal of such things would be a mistake, but by all means go through and either fix them or change them into HTML comments or talk page notes as appropriate. Martin 23:52, 18 Nov 2003 (UTC)

List of undone stuff[edit]

(moved here from the page itself)
Unfortunately, this recommendation is hardly practised as of February 2004. I wonder why. -- Taku

section stubs[edit]

I have noticed that several times when I or someone else tries to mark a section of an article as a stub, someone comes along and either deletes the note or changes it to mark the entire article inaccurately as a stub. This has happened so often lately that I guess I should ask. Is it against policy to mark a sectoin as a stub? If so, is there any preferred way to draw attention to an article where a relevant topic is barely mentioned and needs to be expanded upon? -- Jmabel 23:52, 10 Apr 2004 (UTC)

I'm not aware of anyone else marking a section as a stub, usually it seemed to refer to the whole entry as a stub, so your marking sections as stubs might be causing confusion. How are you doing this, by the way? I think the standard stub message refers to the whole article. It would probably be better to either put some text in the section to indicate that it needed expansion, or put a message in the talk page. I would avoid the term stub, as I think most people associate that with a whole article needing expansion. I would, anyway. Silverfish 00:56, 11 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Silverfish is right. I have no idea this "section stub" thing even exists. So, it's not even a matter of "can I do it", as in "we have no idea what you are doing". You should just leave message in Talk instead drawing attention. "Stub", AFAIK, describes an article, not a section of an article. We do need to point out that certain section is insufficient, but to re-use the "stub" terminology can be really confusing. --Menchi 01:02, 11 Apr 2004 (UTC)~
I have, on occasion, used notes such as:
(todo: explain blah rhubarb blah)
at specific places in articles when I didn't have the time just then or felt others might be more competent on the subject I considered missing. Mkweise 05:11, 11 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Maybe it's best we use HTML comments for inline comments on the article, so at least that articles look somewhat complete. Dysprosia 05:20, 11 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Html comments aren't visible until after one clicks on "edit", and thus would rather defeat the purpose of such notes—being to encourage anyone viewing the article to help fill in the blanks.
Also, why would you want to make a product that you yourself consider to be lacking something essential appear complete in the first place? This is Wikipedia, not a Microsoft developer team! <g> Mkweise 14:26, 11 Apr 2004
Then try and make "todo" notes as neat as possible, perhaps at the end of the article. Perhaps complete wasn't the right word - perhaps "functional" would better suit. Articles should look clean, professional, and be as functional as possible. Presentation is important.
It may appear to look more haphazard and annoy users hoping to find certain information if one has comments about the text inline with the article text itself. Contributors for an article would know about the topic itself before beginning, so if they feel they can contribute, they will see perhaps what needs doing in the wikitext. Dysprosia 14:37, 11 Apr 2004 (UTC)
It's my understanding that to-do notes belong in talk. The only exception is msg:stub which is partly designed to head off criticisms from readers (i.e. "yes we know that this article is much to short, we're acknowledging it's just a start"). Once an article has expanded to the point that it's no longer a stub, use the talk page instead. fabiform | talk 15:53, 11 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Or talk. Talk's a great place for todo notes too. Dysprosia 15:56, 11 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Proposal to consolidate advice on writing better articles[edit]

At present there are many articles in the Wikipedia namespace that seek to give guidance on how to write better articles. I propose consolidating these into a much smaller number. On User:Jongarrettuk/Better writing guide I propose how these could be consolidated. The proposal is not to change advice, just to consolidate it. If I have inadvertently moved what you consider to be good advice that is currently in the Wikipedia namespace, please re-add it. I'm hope that the proposal to merge all these articles, in principle, will be welcomed. Of course, it may be preferred to have 2, 3 or 4 inter-connected articles than just one and would welcome advice on how this could be done. (In particular, perhaps all the guidance on layout should be spun off into one consolidated article on layout.) I'm also aware that putting lots of different bits of advice together may throw up anomalies or bits that people now disagree with (including bits that I myself disagree with:) ). I ask for support for the consolidation. Once the consolidation has happened, the advice can be changed in the normal way. Please feel free to improve on the current draft consolidation, but don't remove or add advice that is not currently on the Wikipedia namespace. If all goes well, I'll add a new Wikipedia:Guide to writing better articles page on the 19th, though maybe some bits of the new article will need to be phased in over a longer period. I'll also take care to preserve all the archived discussion in one place. jguk 19:51, 11 Nov 2004 (UTC)