Wikipedia:Arguments to avoid on discussion pages

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On Wikipedia, talk pages serve a variety of functions. One of the main purposes is for Wikipedia editors to discuss how the article should be written, and what material should be included or not.

While involved in a discussion, there are arguments that can make or break a case. Inclusion of material can hinge on what existing policies and guidelines allow for. Therefore, all arguments in such a discussion should be based on these, and not one's personal perceptions.

Unlike a deletion discussion, where people "vote" with terms like "keep," "delete," and a variety of other actions, talk page discussions are not as formal and can follow any number of structures. The examples below use terms like "include" and "remove" just to get the point across. But a real discussion may appear quite differently.

Arguments without arguments[edit]

Just a vote[edit]

Please study the introduction of this essay on making solid arguments in Wikipedia discussions.

Examples:

  • IncludeThoughtlessMcInclude 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
  • RemoveThoughtlessMcRemove 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
  • Include because it should be included – Because This 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
  • Remove because it does not belong – Because That 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)

It is important when engaging in a discussion that your comments are not votes. It helps in reaching a consensus when each person who comments gives a reason why they believe in their decision.

Per others[edit]

Please study the introduction of this essay on making solid arguments in Wikipedia discussions.

Examples:

  • Include per consensus – Echo 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
  • Remove since that is what everyone else wants – Copycat 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)

Discussions are a place where people present ideas in working toward a solution. Simply going along with the crowd does not present any new ideas. If you agree with one or more other users, you should specify why you think their ideas are good.

There must be sources[edit]

Please study the introduction of this essay on making solid arguments in Wikipedia discussions.

Examples:

  • Include – This is obviously notable, so it could be referenced. Prejudger 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
  • Include – There must be plenty of sources. Presumer 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
  • Include – You should find sources, instead of deleting it. ItsUpToYou 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)

We keep content because we know it can be sourced, not because we assume it can, without having seen them. Any claim that sources exist must be verifiable, and unless you can indicate what and where the sources are, they are not verifiable.

Just pointing at a policy or guideline[edit]

Further information: WP:VAGUEWAVE

Examples:

While merely citing a policy or guideline may give other editors a clue as to what the reasoning is, it does not explain specifically how the policy applies to the discussion at hand. When asserting that content should be removed, it is important to explain why. The same is true when asserting that something does follow policy.

As noted above, content discussions are not "votes". They are discussions with the goal of determining consensus. Rather than merely writing "Original research", or "Does not meet Wikipedia:Verifiability", consider writing a more detailed summary, e.g. "Original research: Contains speculation not attributed to any sources" or "Does not meet Wikipedia:Verifiability – only sources cited are blogs and chat forum posts". Providing specific reasons why the subject may be original research or improperly sourced gives other editors an opportunity to supply sources that better underpin the claims made in the article.

Keep in mind that content can often be improved, and may not need to be deleted if the specific problems can be identified and corrected (see surmountable problems, below.)

Also, while citing essays that summarize a position can be useful shorthand, citing an essay (like this one) just by one of its many shortcuts (e.g. WP:ILIKEIT or WP:IDONTLIKEIT), without further explanation, is similarly ill-advised, for the reasons explained above.

Begging for mercy[edit]

Examples:

  • Include I worked so hard on this article. Do you really want to put my contributions to waste? – DoNotHurtMe, 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
  • Include You would be doing me a big favor if you changed your opinion – Mindchanger, 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
  • Include I need more time to work on it – Not Finished Yet, 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
  • Include I am on vacation now, and I won't be able to work on it until I get back home – InTahiti, 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
  • Include I placed this template on top of the page so my work wouldn't get deleted – ConstructionSign, 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
  • Include I placed hidden text next to my work telling others they were not supposed to delete it – WarningMarker, 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)

Such arguments make no use of policy or guidelines whatsoever. They are merely a campaign on the part of the commentator to alter others' points-of-view. They are of no help in reaching a consensus, and anyone responding to such pleas is not helping either.

You should also make yourself familiar with Wikipedia's canvassing guidelines before you solicit "votes" one way or the other in a discussion.

If you feel you need more time to work on new content, an option may be to request userfication, where you can spend as much time as you wish to improve the content until it meets Wikipedia's inclusion guidelines. Once this has been accomplished, you can reintroduce it into main article space.

Personal point of view[edit]

Article appearance[edit]

  • Include Makes article look good – Vanity Fair 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
  • Remove Makes article look bad – Eyesore Buster 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)

Content on Wikipedia is judged based on its compliance with guidelines, not its physical appearance. Once you can make all the content comply, you can then work with that and tidy it up.

Personal taste[edit]

  • Include I like it in there – All for me 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
  • Remove I hate it in there – Yuck 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
  • Include This is great, and I think it should stay. – Peacock, 02:02, 2 February 2002 (UTC)
  • Remove: No need. – WhoNeedsThis, 06:07, 5 April 2004 (UTC)
  • Remove: I'm so ashamed this article is on Wikipedia. – Mortified_Molly, 01:31, 16 February 2010 (UTC)
  • Remove: Got bored of reading. Not of interest to English-speakers. – HastyHannigan, 03:07, 25 July 2011 (UTC)
  • Remove: This makes me look stupid! – Reputation Defender, 19:10, 25 February 2016 (UTC)
  • Remove This offends me. – OnTheDefense, 11:47, 1 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Remove Does not belong here. – MembersOnly, 16:25, 5 February 2007 (UTC)
  • Remove That would never appear in a paper encyclopedia. – WebExclusive, 12:01, 18 December 2006 (UTC)

Such arguments are purely personal point-of-view. They make no use of policies, guidelines, or even logic. The message behind any of these is that "I don't like it, therefore it should not be included". On Wikipedia, inclusion of content is determined by a series of policies and guidelines set by consensus, not by people saying "I think this belongs" or "I do not think this belongs". All of that is personal opinion, and the only comment less helpful than personal opinion is a simple vote. It is impossible to please everyone. But it is possible to comply with guidelines, and this will decide what is included and what not. Wikipedia editors are a pretty diverse group of individuals, and potentially any subject or topic may be liked or disliked by some editor somewhere. However, personal preference is not a valid reason to keep or delete an article or other content.

As stated at Wikipedia:Verifiability:

In Wikipedia, verifiability means that anyone using the encyclopedia can check that the information comes from a reliable source. Wikipedia does not publish original research. Its content is determined by previously published information rather than the beliefs or experiences of its editors. Even if you're sure something is true, it must be verifiable before you can add it.

In other words, a person or group may well be the greatest example of what they do in the history of everything, but if no other verifiable reliable sources have been written about them that are relevant to the scope of the article, they cannot be included. If your favourite song/computer game/webcomic/whatever is as great as you believe, someone will likely write about it eventually, so please just be patient. On the other hand, claims that content should be excluded require an explanation of which policy the content fails and explanation of why that policy applies as the rationale for removing it.

In general, the scope and purpose of the article must be kept in mind when considering inclusion or exclusion of information or sources. When sources significantly deviate from the scope of an article's topic, or subject, this may create room for disputes. Therefore, careful considerations such as weight and relevance should also be taken into account in making decisions.

It's interesting[edit]

  • Include Makes the article more interesting – WOW 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
  • Remove No one is interested in reading that – Boring! 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)

There are many interesting facts out there. There are also lots of things you may perceive no one is interested in reading. You never know. Once again, this is opinion.

Simple truth[edit]

  • Include Is verifiable – C4Urself 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
  • Include Is sourced – Good Enough 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)

Wikipedia is not a collection of indiscriminate information. There is actually quite a lot of true and sourceable information out in this world that does not belong on Wikipedia, or in a particular article. For example, Wikipedia is not a collection of statistics, trivia, or how to information. And besides, you would not write facts about an apple tree in an article about sharks. Simply saying something is "verifiable" or "sourced" does not show how it is relevant to the subject or why it otherwise belongs.

It's useful[edit]

Example:

  • Include Useful. – Usefulisgood, 05:05, 5 May 2005 (UTC)
  • Remove: We don't need this here. – Judgmental, 03:03, 3 March 2003 (UTC)

Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, so it should include useful encyclopedic content. But many useful things do not belong in an encyclopedia and are excluded. Just saying something is useful or useless without providing explanation and context is not helpful or persuasive in the discussion. You need to say why content is useful or useless; this way other editors can judge whether it's useful and encyclopedic, and whether it meets Wikipedia's policies.

A list of all the phone numbers in New York would be useful, but is not included because Wikipedia is not a directory. A page simply defining the word useful would be useful, but is not included because Wikipedia is not a dictionary (we have Wiktionary for that). A guide to the best restaurants in Paris would be useful but is not included because Wikipedia is not a travel guide (there is a Wikivoyage for that). Usefulness is a subjective judgment and should be avoided unless it supports a cogent argument.

If reasons are given, "usefulness" can be the basis of a valid argument for inclusion. An encyclopedia should, by definition, be informative and useful to its readers. Try to exercise common sense, and consider how a non-trivial number of people will consider the information "useful". Information found in tables in particular is focused on usefulness to the reader. An argument based on usefulness can be valid if put in context. For example, "This list brings together related topics in X and is useful for navigating that subject."

There are some pages within Wikipedia that are supposed to be useful navigation tools and nothing more—disambiguation pages, categories, and redirects, for instance—so usefulness is the basis of their inclusion; for these types of pages, usefulness is a valid argument.

It doesn't do any harm[edit]

Examples:

  • Include Why change this, it is not harming anyone. – Hippocrates2, 05:05, 6 June 2006 (UTC)
  • Remove This content is very harmful to many people. Get rid of this now! – BiographyPolice, 15:01, 5 September 2013 (UTC)

No content on Wikipedia is censored. Just because content does not directly hurt anyone does not mean it should stay in an article. For example, if there has not been any verifiable information published in reliable sources about the subject, then there is no way to check whether the information is true, and it may damage the reputation of the subject and the project. Even if it is true, without the ability to check it, false information could very well start to seep in. As for content that does not conform to our basic tenets (verifiability, notability, and using reliable sources), keeping it actually can do more harm than one realizes – it sets a precedent that dictates that literally anything can go here.

The "it does not do any harm" claim and its rebuttal are at the center of the philosophical editing debate of inclusionism versus deletionism. For more information and arguments, see the Meta articles Inclusionism and Deletionism.

In some cases, such as WP:BLP, whether content is harmful is often a relevant issue. The rules provide that inherently disruptive pages, for instance, may be deleted. The argument "it's not hurting anything" is less persuasive, however, when WP:NOT clearly prohibits the content in question (e.g. a full-fledged blog in userspace) from being hosted here.

It's valuable[edit]

Examples:

  • Include valuable. – Gollum, 05:05, 16 Demember 2012 (UTC)
  • Remove adds nothing of value – Scrooge, 05:05, 16 Demember 2012 (UTC)
  • Include: This was not an advertisement, but VALUABLE INFORMATION about our groundbreaking product that everyone on the Internet seeks on Wikipedia! – I. Wanda Publicize-Sumthin,
  • Include: This content is for a really good cause...it is about a charitable group that is trying to save children – SaveTheKids!Please!,
  • Remove: The government of Utopistan notes that military information on this article helps insurgents to plan attacks. – SaveTheTroops!Please!,

Value is subjective. Simply saying it has value or no value with out substantiating the position of why or how is not a helpful or persuasive contribution to a discussion. Remember, you need to say why the content is or is not valuable; this way other editors can judge its value in a certain context, and whether it meets Wikipedia's policies. Without that explanation, it does not make a valid argument.

Additionally, Wikipedia is not the place to seek publicity for a cause, product, individual, ideology, etc. Promotional or partisan "information" in particular generally fails Wikipedia's requirements of neutrality and verifiability. See also WP:NOBLECAUSE and "It's useful".

Surmountable problems[edit]

Quality of writing[edit]

  • Remove Has a lot of misspelling and poor grammar. – English Teacher 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
  • Remove This paragraph is messy and poorly laid out. – LostWillToFix,
  • Remove It's not referenced properly – Lazy1, 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
  • Include We'll find some sources later – NotRightNow, 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)

Material that is included on Wikipedia is judged on its accuracy and strength of sourcing, not on the quality of writing. A paragraph or two that has spelling, grammar, or punctuation problems can always be corrected. Consider that Wikipedia is a work in progress and content should not be deleted just because no one has felt like cleaning it up yet. Remember, Wikipedia has no deadline. If there's good, eventually sourceable, content in the article, it should be developed and improved, not removed. (If there is no usable content, however, it may well be best to remove it.)

In the Wiki model, content which may currently be poorly written, poorly formatted, lack sufficient sources, or not be a comprehensive overview of the subject, can be improved and rewritten to fix its current flaws. That such content is lacking in certain areas is a relatively minor problem, and it can still be of benefit to Wikipedia. In other words, the remedy for such content is cleanup, not removal.

With that said, if content is so bad that it is harmful in its current state, then removing it now, and possibly adding it back later, is often a better option. For example, problems like copyright infringement, advertising, patent nonsense, or unsourced negative statements in biographies of living people, need to be resolved as quickly as possible. Additionally, if specific problems with content have been known for some time, such as when statements are tagged with a {{citation needed}} template, that may be grounds for concluding that no sources actually exist.

Sources are inaccessible[edit]

  • Remove The only sources given are offline. – Cantmakeittothelibrary, 03:29, 22 August 2007 (UTC)
  • Remove With only offline sources given, there is no proof that this is not a hoax. – The Secret Keeper, 03:29, 22 August 2007 (UTC)
  • Remove One look online shows that this does not even exist. – Jumping to conclusions, 03:29, 22 August 2007 (UTC)
  • Remove Google Books only allows you to see pages 1-45 of this book, and the source claims it's on page 57. – Restricted access, 03:29, 22 August 2007 (UTC)
  • Remove All the sources given have fallen victim to linkrot. Therefore, we have no way of knowing about this. – Evidence Destroyed, 03:29, 22 August 2007 (UTC)
  • Remove The book sources don't have any ISBNs, so they must be fake. IAmANumber, 03:29, 22 August 2007 (UTC)
  • Remove The sources are behind a paywall. InformationWantsToBeFree, 03:29, 22 August 2007 (UTC)
  • Remove I can't access this so I don't know if it's true. Suspicious, 03:29, 22 August 2007 (UTC)
  • Oppose I won't accept your argument until you cite sources I can check myself. NoTrust, 03:29, 22 August 2007 (UTC)

On Wikipedia, we assume good faith. Unless we have good reason to suspect that an editor is mistaken or dishonest, we take their contributions to discussions at face value. This doesn't mean we can't doubt what someone says, but it means that we need actual reasons to do so.

There is no distinction between using online versus offline sources. Offline sources are just as legitimate as those that are accessible to everyone online. If content is sourced to offline sources, even exclusively offline sources, we give the creator (and other contributors) the benefit of the doubt in accepting their accuracy. Since Wikipedia is written collaboratively, it is always possible for other editors to add online sources on top of the offline ones already there. However, this is not a requirement, and they need not exist to sustain the content. That said, all sources must be verifiably published and thus accessible somehow (even if at expense and trouble), as well as reliable.

Nobody's working on it (or impatience with improvement)[edit]

Please study the introduction of this essay on making solid arguments in Wikipedia discussions.

Examples:

  • Remove This hasn't been improved in 2 years! – TheyDidntWork, 03:29, 22 August 2007 (UTC)
  • Remove I gave them six months for someone to add cites, they didn't, and I have lost my patience. – My Way or the Highway, 01:33, 12 October 2010 (UTC)
  • Remove Creator has totally neglected this article – Plant and run, 03:29, 22 August 2007 (UTC)
  • Remove Each time we discussed this, User:WantItKept promised they would improve it. But that never happened. And User:WantItKept keeps reneging on his promise. Last straw was long ago, 03:29, 22 August 2007 (UTC)
  • Include I know I can improve it, I just have no time now to explain how. PrettyPleaseWithACherryOnTop, 03:29, 22 August 2007 (UTC)

Sometimes content is not being worked on very much, or has not been edited in a long time, and thus might not be in very good shape. This does not necessarily mean that the material is unsuitable for Wikipedia; it may be that the topic is obscure or difficult to write about. Content should be assessed on its own merits, not how frequently it has been edited to date. Remember that there is no deadline.

Content shouldn't be removed just because no one has improved it yet; that would prevent editors from improving it in the future. Conversely it's not enough to promise to make the content better; editors should explain how to do it. If the editor fails to follow through on the promise, other editors who arrive later can step in and keep improving it. This way, the fate of the content is not dependent on one single editor doing the work; Wikipedia is written in a collaborative way.

Exceptions:

     (See § Inaction by editors, below, for the related argument that someone in favor of a change must satisfy all demands before the change will be accepted by consensus.)

Relevance and significance fallacies[edit]

Sourcing[edit]

  • Include Despite the fact there is no sourcing, I know this is accurate – KnowsBest 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)

On Wikipedia, inclusion is based on verifiability, not truth. All included information must be verifiable by reliable sources.

Personal knowledge[edit]

  • Include I am an expert on this subject – TheUltimateAuthority 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
  • Include I work for this company and know this is about to happen there – Insider 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)

No original research is allowed on Wikipedia. Word-of-mouth info that is not from published sources is not considered to be verifiable.

Unreliable sources[edit]

  • Include Someone on this blog said that it is true – OneIsEnough 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
  • Include It says it in another Wikipedia article – AOK 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
  • Include A friend told me about it on Facebook – Word of mouth 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
  • Include There is a whole web site devoted to this subject – Make It Notable Yourself, 13:13, 08 June 2007 (UTC)
  • Include Look what I found about it on Twitter – Tweet Me, 13:13, 08 June 2007 (UTC)

Verifiability requires that content must be sourced to reliable sources. Sites like blogs and personal pages that can be created or edited by anyone with little or no restriction are generally not seen as reliable sources of information. While such sites may be written in good faith and may be seen by some as accurate and/or neutral, there is little or no control or proof of these details, and there is even a chance they may have been created or edited by the very same person who created or contributed to the Wikipedia article.

On the other hand, blogs can be written by professional journalists and subject to editorial control, and personal sites can belong to established experts in the subject. There are also pages bearing the URLs of blogs that have mirrored news articles that do constitute reliable sources. For sites including user-generated content, assess whether the content is self-published or can be attributed to an independent professional writer with a record of reliable publishing. News sources that publish in a blog format may be as reliable as a traditional newspaper.

Trivial information[edit]

  • Include Without this information and the sources that come along with it, the article will be completely unreferenced, and will be in danger of deletion. – Anchor Baby 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
  • Include In all the publicity this school has received, they mention this particular honors student – WayToGo!, 13:13, 08 June 2007 (UTC)
  • Include This was mentioned in the community times – HighRatings, 13:13, 08 June 2007 (UTC)
  • Include I heard someone say on the 5 o'clock news that the police have been called to this gas station – NuisanceProperty, 13:13, 08 June 2007 (UTC)
  • Remove One sentence is trivial coverage. HennyYoungman, 13:13, 08 June 2007 (UTC)

In order to meet the general notability guideline, an article must be sourced by reliable sources with substantial coverage. If only the trivia in an article is and can be sourced, it is doubtful whether or not it can be included, and this should indeed be examined.

The subject doesn't have to be the main topic of the source material, as long as we have enough sources to write from a neutral point of view. Critical commentary from reputable professional reviewers and prestigious awards are examples of short but significant (i.e. nontrivial) mentions that have been used to establish notability and are useful to write Reception sections (see the specific guidelines for books, films, music and artists); common sense and editorial judgement should be used to reach a consensus about the sources available.

Unchallenged material (or content age)[edit]

Please study the introduction of this essay on making solid arguments in Wikipedia discussions.

  • Include: Has remained in the article for 6 years already and no one has challenged it. – Dried up 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
  • Oppose change: This page has said this since the wikiproject was started! – SovereignProject 22:19, 15 March 2016 (UTC)
  • Keep: I inserted that two months ago and no one objected then, thus is must have consensus. – UnclearOnTheConcept 14:43, 15 March 2016 (UTC)

The argument also exists in inverted form:

  • Remove: This has only been here for two days, and the page was stable before that. Why should we keep this addition? – StatusQuoStonewall Jackson 02:12, 15 March 2016 (UTC)

On Wikipedia, nothing is set in stone. Any text on any page is subject to change at any time, no matter how long it has been that way. If there is a good reason to remove long-standing text, the length of time it has been there should not be an obstacle.

Just as inclusion is not an indicator of notability, it is also not an indicator of significance or relevance. Bits of outright hoax material have survived in articles sometimes for years, and various proclamations of would-be "guidelines" at wikiproject advice pages have contradicted actual policy for a long time without being corrected. While WP:Consensus policy reminds us that any undiscussed edit that is not disputed by later can be assumed to have consensus, the act of challenging it (in good faith) removes that default assumption, by definition. "It's been here a long time" does not equate to "it has had actual consensus for a long time". The material might have achieved its age because its lack of relevance, significance, or current applicability was not discovered until recently.

There is a big difference between material that, on the one hand, someone simply inserted and no one bothered to talk about until now, and, on the other, material that has been repeatedly challenged and retained (by source- and/or policy-based consensus, not a false consensus). Outside mainspace, material that has become integral to how Wikipedia operates is also not subject to sudden removal or radical alteration simply because someone isn't clear where consensus established it back when. However, no amount of longevity of some item in an article or other page is sufficient to surmount a conflict with current Wikipedia policies and guidelines, which may have changed since the material was inserted. Consensus can change, and a standard operating procedure on Wikipedia is the normalization of old material to incremental changes in policy.

There is also a difference between A) resisting poorly-thought-out changes that did not have solid rationales, and B) status-quo stonewalling to exert control over a page, even if proposed changes are well-justified. As a matter of the Editing policy, it is not necessary for any editor to seek "permission" before making good-faith changes. That said, being a new addition that might be improved upon does not somehow "protect" a change from being challenged or reverted pending further discussion.

In short, if some material is not suitable for Wikipedia by current standards, it will be deleted or corrected, regardless of how old it is.

     (See also § Nobody's working on it (or impatience with improvement), above, noting that a page or section not being edited in a long time is also not grounds for removal..)

Google test[edit]

Examples:

  • Include There are 345,400 Google hits for this term, so it is clearly of interest. – GoogleBoy, 04:04, 4 April 2004 (UTC)
  • Remove Only 10 Google hits, non-notable. – GoogleGirl, 04:04, 4 April 2004 (UTC)
  • Remove Zero Google hits, must be a hoax. – MustBeAHoax, 04:04, 4 April 2004 (UTC)
  • Include She's the first Google result for her name, so obviously she's important. – FirstIsBest, 04:04, 4 April 2004 (UTC)

Although using a search engine like Google can be useful in determining how common or well-known a particular topic is, a large number of hits on a search engine is no guarantee that the subject is suitable for inclusion in Wikipedia. The quality of the search engine results matters more than the raw number. A more detailed description of the problems that can be encountered using a search engine to determine suitability can be found at Wikipedia:Search engine test.

Similarly, a lack of search engine hits may only indicate that the topic is highly specialized or not generally sourceable via the internet. WP:BIO, for instance, specifically states, Avoid criteria based on search engine statistics (e.g., Google hits or Alexa ranking). One would not expect to find thousands of hits on an ancient Estonian god. However, the search-engine test may be useful as a negative test of popular culture topics which one would expect to see sourced via the Internet. A search on an alleged "Internet meme" that returns only one or two distinct sources is a reasonable indication that the topic is not as important as has been claimed. As well, numerous hits that refer to X as "Y" can demonstrate that "Y" is a plausible redirect to the article on X.

Note further that searches using Google's specialty tools, such as Google Books, Google Scholar, and Google News are more likely to return reliable sources that can be useful in improving content than the default Google web search. However, since content can be verified entirely by offline sources such as books and newspapers, a lack of search results there is not proof in itself that content should be kept or deleted.

Number of editors involved[edit]

Examples:

  • Include A lot of editors have worked on this – Busy at work, 13:37, 1 May 2008 (UTC)
  • Remove This content was written by a single editor – My Personal Article, 13:37, 1 May 2008 (UTC)
  • Remove The only editor who ever worked on this has left Wikipedia – Who Cares?, 13:37, 1 May 2008 (UTC)

The number of editors involved may point out the level of interest in a subject, but it does not measure the number of reliable sources or its compliance with other policies and guidelines. An article can be made into a good article, either by one person or by a dozen. And if no reliable sources exist at all, then no matter how many editors they are, they will not be found.

Article size[edit]

Examples:

  • Include I've added a lot of information on the subject – Book of Wealth, 13:13, 08 June 2007 (UTC)
  • Remove Article is only one line. Clearly a DICDEF – Mr. Webster, 13:13, 08 June 2007 (UTC)
  • Include We don't have enough information about this – Flashcard, 13:13, 08 June 2007 (UTC)
  • Include There's so much information here that some of it has to be good – Impressed by Length, 13:13, 08 June 2007 (UTC)
  • Remove because it's WP:TLDRDidntRead, 13:13, 08 June 2007 (UTC)

Wikipedia is not a collection of indiscriminate information. An article could have many paragraphs or even pages of information. If any of that information is not and cannot be properly sourced, it does not belong. On the other hand, even a small amount of information can be eligible for inclusion, provided that the inclusion guidelines are met. Even if the article on a subject is very short, it may just be waiting for expansion. Likewise, information being too detailed may be a good argument for moving it to a more specialized article, but is not in itself a reason to remove it entirely.

Subjective importance[edit]

For further information on this concept and more examples, see Wikipedia:Subjective importance

Examples:

  • Remove Well I've never heard of it so it must be a hoax. – Iknownothing, 00:07, 1 April 2004 (UTC)
  • Remove People in my city haven't heard of this, so it must be unimportant. – Provincial, 15:55, 24 January 2007 (UTC)
  • Remove Who outside of (name locality) has ever even heard of this person/place/thing? – Notknownhere, 14:12, 18 June 2007 (UTC)
  • Include I know it well. It's on my way to school. – Myneighborhood, 14:12, 18 June 2007 (UTC)
  • Include John is the tallest person in my home town so he should be on the list of the world's tallest people. – Smalltownboy, 05:05, 5 May 2005 (UTC)
  • Include Is the only elementary school on Clubbington Street in Eastgrove. – OnlySchool, 07:57, 30 July 2008 (UTC)

Lots of things are well-known to a select group of people. A woman may be considered the greatest crocheter in a local crochet group, which may make her famous in that community, but that isn't necessarily significant enough to include in a Wikipedia article. Wikipedia is not an indiscriminate collection of information, meaning that some things are not suitable for inclusion in Wikipedia. Everything in Wikipedia needs to be verifiable information published in reliable sources before content can even be considered for inclusion, otherwise it could be considered original research. If the only sources that have written about a subject are those within a small community it's likely (but not always the case) that those sources are not reliable enough to warrant inclusion in Wikipedia.

Arguments that state a subject is unknown or not well known among English readers encourage a systemic bias on Wikipedia. To avoid this, Wikipedia should include all significant information, even if it isn't significant within the English-speaking population or within more populous or Internet-connected nations. Likewise, arguments that state that because information is lesser known or even completely unknown outside a given locality do not mean the information cannot be included.

Crystal ball[edit]

Examples:

  • Include This information may be unknown now, but it is going to be really important very soon. – Youwillsee, 18:49, 13 June 2007 (UTC)
  • Include Of course this unreleased single should be included. It's by The Scrotums. – Mycrystalballisinforservice, 01:40, 10 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Include We all know there will be a presidential election in 2032. – Everyone's a psychic, 01:40, 10 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Remove This celeb is just a flash in the pan, and nobody will remember her in a week/month/year. – Shortattentionspan, 18:49, 13 June 2007 (UTC)

Wikipedia is not a crystal ball, and editors should avoid using one when commenting. It is difficult to determine precisely what people believe in the present, even more difficult to predict how perceptions will change in the future, and completely unnecessary to even try. Inclusion is based on objective evidence of whether sufficient reliable sources have already taken notice, not on subjective judgments of whether people will or should take notice in the future. Focusing on the objective evidence helps the discussion reach a logical conclusion; injecting your personal predictions does not.

Inaction by sources[edit]

Examples:

  • Remove None of the source coverage would have occurred had the one event not occurred. – Lookherenotthere, 10:28, 13 April 2008 (UTC)
  • Remove We don't have any sources that mention this after 1990. - Lookherenotthere, 14:32, 13 April 2008 (UTC)

Inclusion of content is based on objective evidence of whether sufficient reliable sources already exist, not on subjective judgments of why there aren't more or newer sources. Focusing on the objective evidence helps the discussion reach a logical conclusion; injecting your personal supposition does not.

However, especially for science-related material where understanding in the field may change rapidly, old sources that are contradicted by newer, equally reliable ones, must not be given undue weight.

Inaction by editors[edit]

Please study the introduction of this essay on making solid arguments in Wikipedia discussions.

Examples:

  • Remove: Nobody has added sources for this information, so it's not verifiable. – HopToIt, 13:01, 29 January 2010 (UTC)
  • Reverting again since you didn't resolve the problem I pointed out, and it doesn't really matter if others don't see it. – MyWayOrHighway, 09:32, 15 March 2016 (UTC)
  • Remove until you fix the problems with the rest of the article.
  • Remove because nobody added this to the other article on the same topic.

Verifiability is based upon whether reliable sources exist, rather than the state of sourcing in articles; Wikipedia's Verifiability policy requires that information be verifiable not already verified. If the very existence of sources cannot be ascertained, this may be a valid rationale for removal. Only in biographies of living people (for defamation legal reasons) is lack of a citation by itself grounds for deletion of material that clearly can be but has not yet been sourced.

In actual practice, many additions without sources are reverted pending further discussion and sourcing. However, if the addition is not controversial and sources have been identified but not yet added, it may be interpreted as "gaming the system" to insist on its removal pending the citations, especially if the editor who added it has requested help with the sourcing (e.g. because the source is behind a journal site's paywall and they no longer have access to it).

Similar arguments are sometimes made along the lines that the objector's concerns have not been addressed yet, even though a solution to (or refutation of) them has already been provided, and there appears to be no agreement that the objector's position is correct. Consensus need not be unanimous to be achieved, and other editors' efforts to continue improving a page are not held hostage by unreasonable demands. A call for action by one editor does not create an obligation on the part of any other to act upon it.

     (See § Nobody's working on it (or impatience with improvement), above, for the related argument that the content must not be worthy if people aren't working on it.)

Subjects are connected[edit]

Examples:

  • Include We should say that she once worked with someone famous – Keeper, 14:15, 03 March 2009 (UTC)
  • Include All examples of foo should be discussed in the article. – Classifier, 01:15, 03 January 2006 (UTC)
  • Include: this person's brother is famous, so he's famous too. – Adrian Listmaker, 18:20, 26 March 2009 (UTC)
  • Remove her actions shouldn't be mentioned here, she's only known because the U.S. President's wife – First Lady 18:16, 10 April 2015 (UTC)
  • Include This is an album by a famous artist, so it's relevant in this article. – The internet's busiest music nerd, 9:29 15 August 2015 (UTC)
  • Include This subject has its own article, so it should be mentioned in this article. – Wheredoesitend, 9:29 15 September 2015 (UTC)

Content does not qualify for inclusion merely because it exists, even if zero independent reliable sources have ever taken notice of the subject. We can't argue that "____ should be included, because it is associated with Important Subject." If subjects seem to be related, but no sources connect them to each other, making the connection in Wikipedia is original research.

Sources about one or more members of some group or class of subjects may or may not apply to other possible members of that group. Discuss based upon the individual subject, not the subject's overarching classification or type. In addition, information about a parent entity or topic (of a parent-child "tree") does not always apply to the subordinate entities.

Wikipedias in other languages[edit]

Examples

  • Include: given at it's also in corresponding articles on other Wikipedias (de:Foo, es:Foo, fr:Foo, it:Foo, la:Foo, pt:Foo). They can't all be wrong. – Interwikis=Notability, 14:54, 11 August 2009 (UTC)
  • Include: there was a long discussion at the French Wikipedia and they decided to include it.
  • Remove: This material about Mexico isn't covered in the same article at the Spanish Wikipedia. – TrappedBehindTheLanguageBarrier, 01:15, 8 October 2009 (UTC)
  • Remove: This material would be against policy on the Arabic Wikipedia.
  • Delete: German Wikipedia doesn't have a guideline about this, so we shouldn't either.

Information will often be covered by Wikipedia articles in many languages other than English; however, this does not indicate, by itself, that it should be included here. Other Wikipedias may have different inclusion criteria from the English Wikipedia. Other versions of Wikipedia are not reliable sources, and many articles in other Wikipedias are based on translations of English Wikipedia articles. Moreover, because of the availability of online translation tools, it's easier to create cross-wiki spam. The hoax article Jean Moufot was first posted on Netherlands Wikipedia and then translated into several other languages, including English. Of course, if the other Wikipedia articles cite any reliable sources not in the English Wikipedia article, they can be added to it.

On the other hand, the fact that corresponding articles at other Wikipedias don't have something that en.Wikipedia does is not a reason that the information should be removed. It may be the case that nobody has yet added this to the other language's Wikipedia or that it just hasn't been linked to from the English language article. It may also be the information is important in the English-speaking world, but of little relevance to speakers of other languages, or vice versa. En.wikipedia also sees more editorial activity on most topics than other-language WIkipedia's do. Finally, all of the various Wikipedias set most of their policies and guidelines independently, aside from legal and WMF-mission-related requirements imposed on them by WP:OFFICE.

Individual merit[edit]

What about other content?[edit]

Examples:

  • Include This information is in article x as well. – EmperorOtherstuff, 04:04, 4 April 2004 (UTC)
  • Include That other article has information that's even less important. – PokePerson:O, 04:04, 4 April 2004 (UTC)
  • Include You say this is promotional, but there are other articles with content just as promotional as this one. – Blay Tant Marqueter, 04:04, 25 December 2010 (UTC)
  • Include If you remove this you have to remove the whole section. – AllOrNothing, 12:04, 3 August 2006 (UTC)
  • Remove Article y doesn't mention this, so article x shouldn't either. – EmpressOtherstuff, 04:04, 4 April 2004 (UTC)
  • Remove You guys forced me to remove the information at article x, so you have to allow me to remove the information at article y. – NoFair, 04:04, 4 April 2004 (UTC)

The nature of Wikipedia means that you cannot make a convincing argument based solely on whether or not the same or similar content exists or is formatted similarly in some other page. Because there is nothing stopping anyone from editing or creating any article. While these comparisons are not a conclusive test, they may form part of a cogent argument; an entire comment should not be dismissed because it includes a comparative statement like this. While comparing with other articles is not, in general, a convincing argument, comparing with articles that have been through some kind of quality review such as Featured article, Good article, or have achieved a WikiProject A class rating, makes a much more credible case, if the review does not pre-date policy changes that affect the material.

When an editor introduces new information to Wikipedia, it may be necessary to consider whether the inclusion and organization of such material is compliant with core policies such as neutral point of view and no original research. Other editors may argue that a certain type of information isn't included because of inherent violations of core policies; see WP:ATTACK for example. Dismissing such concerns simply by pointing to this essay is inappropriate.

Meta-reasoning[edit]

Wikipedia should be about everything[edit]

Examples:

  • Include I thought Wikipedia's purpose was to provide information on everything. – AllInclusive, 12:04, 3 August 2006 (UTC)
  • Include You are trying to remove true information! – AllTruthful, 15:45, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Include This thing exists, so it should be included. – JohnPaulSartre&Ringo, 01:14, 14 June 2007 (UTC)

Yes, Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, and as such, it should convey information on all branches of knowledge. However, "all branches of knowledge" does not necessarily mean "everything". Wikipedia is specifically not an indiscriminate collection of information, which means there are standards for what constitutes information that should be in Wikipedia. Imagine how large an encyclopedia on everything would be: everything would include every idea that has existed or will exist, every person who ever lived, every organization that has existed or exists, every copy of an object that has existed or exists, every website that has existed or exists, etc. The most basic threshold of inclusion is verifiability, not truth. The verifiability requirement alone would prevent writing about every particle and limit the information that could be included on every person. Moreover, the community has decided not to document every verifiable fact and accordingly has established guidelines on what content should be kept, and a due weight policy on what facts are minority views. Even though that guideline is broader than a paper encyclopedia's guidelines, it is also not "everything". So think carefully and exercise judgement when determining what should be included in an encyclopedia.

That's only a guideline, proposal or essay[edit]

See also: Wikipedia:Quote your own essay

Examples:

  • Include WP:EXAMPLE is an essay, not policy. – DissentingView, 18:49, 13 June 2007 (UTC)
  • Remove WP:Notability (ABC) is only a proposal. – Idontlikeproposals, 18:49, 13 June 2007 (UTC)
  • Remove WP:XYZ is only a guideline. – GuidelinesNoGood, 18:49, 13 June 2007 (UTC)

Wikipedia is not a system of laws. Discussions are not votes, and we encourage people to put forward their opinions. Sometimes, they will find an existing project page which sums up their reasoning already, and rather than reinventing the wheel they will link to it (with a suitable explanation of why it applies). If someone links to an essay, proposal or guideline, they are not suggesting "WP:EXAMPLE says we should do this", but rather "I believe we should do this, WP:EXAMPLE explains the reasons why".

Essays, in general, serve to summarize a position, opinion or argument. Proposals, in addition to their primary function, also summarize positions, opinions and arguments. Frequently, this is done with reference to policies and guidelines, so to glibly brand them as "only an essay" or "only a proposal" may be misleading. It also essentially suggests that the opinion of the person citing the page (as well as those of the people who originally wrote the page) is invalid when it may not be. There are many reasons why some arguments presented in discussions are invalid, based around the substance of the argument or the logic employed in reaching it. "The page you linked to is an essay or proposal" is not one of them.

Guidelines do indeed have exceptions; however, it is unhelpful to suggest "WP:EXAMPLE is only a guideline, we do not have to follow it". We have policies which tell us what to do and why to do it, and guidelines to help us with how to do it. Rather than using a page's "guideline" designation as an excuse to make an exception, suggest reasons why an exception should be made.

About the person[edit]

Ad hominem[edit]

Examples:

  • Include The author of this has a history of writing good content. – GoodCreator, 11:10, 31 July 2008 (UTC)
  • Remove The author has made only 27 edits so far. – FewEdits, 11:10, 31 July 2008 (UTC)
  • Remove The author has previously been reverted a lot and therefore makes poor choices. – BadAuthor, 11:10, 31 July 2008 (UTC)
  • Remove Politically motivated. – POVPusher 00:02, 16 April 2011

A content discussion is about the content in question itself. Though the suitability of related content may be mentioned during the discussion, and some discussions are bundled together, the debate is not about the author or any other editors of the article. Content is to be judged on its own merits and not those of its editors or detractors. Even well-respected editors sometimes make edits that others feel should be reverted, and likewise, newbies and those who have created lots of poor content still have the potential to contribute good content in the future.

There is no shame in having one's good-faith efforts opposed by the majority. Wikipedia is not a club of winners and losers. If a user is disrupting the encyclopedia by continually adding information that gets deleted or removing good content from articles, an investigation may be called for into their behavior; this is an independent issue and its result one way or the other should not influence content discussions. Remember, when you comment, personal attacks and accusations of bad faith never help.

Edits by banned or blocked users in violation of their ban or block may be reverted entirely. This criterion does not apply to edits made before the ban or block, or to pages of topics unrelated to the topic of the ban (unless it is a complete site ban).

Page ownership[edit]

Examples:

  • Include I created this article – MyPage 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
  • Remove I added this then changed my mind, so my opinion should count for more – Regretful 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)

On Wikipedia, pages are not owned, even if created by that user. Once created, it is open for anyone to edit, and once substantially edited by another user, cannot even be deleted at the request of the creator.

Reputation[edit]

  • Include Without this information, this company will lose business – Advertiser 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
  • Remove This article is about myself, and I don't want the world to know that about me – Ashamed 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)

Wikipedia is not advertising space. Content about notable commercial enterprises are permitted, but must be written with a neutral point of view, and are here only to describe the company, and not to promote or disparage it.

Even an article about oneself is not owned by that person. Other editors are permitted to add and modify sourced information within Wikipedia's guidelines. Even if the article says something negative about someone, if it comes from a reliable source, it is perfectly acceptable there (see An article about yourself is nothing to be proud of). Most likely if this happened, the negative information was in the news already, so the public already knows. Importantly, all such content must still meet the strict policies found in WP:Biographies of living persons.

See also[edit]