Wikipedia:Discriminate vs indiscriminate information

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People who are compulsive hoarders may be unable to discriminate between important and unimportant items, and so they may save everything.

Discriminate vs Indiscriminate Information: during articles for deletion discussions, sometimes WP:IINFO is cited, stating "Wikipedia is not an indiscriminate collection of information." This is a part of the official policy Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not.

With this, two questions comes up:

  1. What exactly is an "indiscriminate collection of information" ?
  2. Does a "discriminate collection of information" not violate the policy?

This essay looks at those questions and specifically examines in detail the policy in question.

Actual discussion[edit]

This essay came about after the following actual discussion.

In WP:IINFO it states: "In addition, articles should contain sufficient explanatory text to put statistics within the article in their proper context for a general reader" and my question is this--how can we tell when we as editors have provided that "sufficient explanatory text" so that we meet the standard? I'm curious on your take on it.--Paul McDonald (talk) 13:22, 8 October 2008 (UTC)

That's an "in addition". The data still has to be discriminate and encyclopedic. Stifle (talk) 13:33, 8 October 2008 (UTC)
And that's where my hang-up is... what do "indiscriminate" and "discriminate" mean? If "indiscriminate" truly means "Without care or making distinctions, thoughtless" then the article in question certainly is not "indiscriminate" because the information is specifically focused on a topic, and the antonym seems to support that. Which brings me right back to the original quesiton--how do we know?--Paul McDonald (talk) 13:47, 8 October 2008 (UTC)
There's no one guideline that applies to everything — like most other things in Wikipedia, articles are analysed on a case by case basis. Stifle (talk) 13:50, 8 October 2008 (UTC)
Thanks for the comments. I'm actually ending up with more questions than before, but I'll sit and stew on them for a while...--Paul McDonald (talk) 13:56, 8 October 2008 (UTC)
User talk:Stifle/Archive 0409

Response[edit]

The statement "there is no one guideline that applies to everything" is reasonable, and there is strong reason to review articles on a case-by-case basis. But that doesn't really answer the two questions at hand--it actually fuels the confusion.

What exactly is an "indiscriminate collection of information" ?[edit]

Using the definition given above from Wiktionary, an indiscriminate collection of information would be a collection of information gathered "without care or making distinctions" or in a "thoughtless" manner. For example:

Indiscriminate Lists of Information[edit]

  • Bill, 7, Orange, pedometer, three ring notebook, The Magna Carta, Jerome Lester Horowitz.
  • f,e,s,a,gh,l,2,df,4, fd,a,df,we
  • paper clip, bleach, chewing gum, magnifying glass

Each of the three lists were assembled without care or making distinctions. The first, words and/or names were typed as they were thought. The second, random keystrokes on the keyboard with intermittent commas. The third is just an ordinary list of household items (although MacGyver might be able to use them to make an explosive device or pick a lock).

Discriminate Lists of Information[edit]

  • Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Adams, Jackson
  • H 1, Li 3, Na 11, K 19, Rb 37, Cs 55, Fr 87
  • Mike, Carol, Greg, Marsha, Peter, Jan, Bobby, Cindy, Alice

These three lists were assembled with thought: The first is the first few Presidents of the United States, the second is the first column of the Periodic table, and the third is a list of characters in The Brady Bunch.

"Lists" vs "Collections"[edit]

Note that the actual policy refers to a "collection" of information and not necessarily a "list" of information. Lists were used above as a method to show the difference between "discriminate" and "indiscriminate" information. While lists are certainly a part of Wikipedia, articles make up the bulk of the content. Here is where the information can then become a "collection" of information.

At the time of this writing, the definition in Wiktionary states a "collection" can mean the following:

  1. A set of items or objects procured by an individual.
  2. Multiple related objects associated as a group.
  3. The activity of collecting.
A set of items or objects procured by an individual[edit]

This is likely the best definition to use for the word "collection" in this essay. The "set of items or objects" would be the data gathered for the article.

Multiple related objects associated as a group[edit]

This definition, because of the word "associated", implies some kind of "discriminate" grouping is required for a collection. However, if this were meant to be used in the policy then the word "indiscriminate" would be redundant as all collections would be considered "discriminate" at least on some level.

The activity of collecting[edit]

There may be some meaning in this definition in this essay because the act of "collecting" information for articles may imply that the indiscriminate collection of data applies across all of Wikipedia and not just to one article. Where one article may appear to be an "indiscriminate list" that article may be associated with other articles such that when viewed as a whole can actually represent a very discriminate topic.

Does a "discriminate collection of information" not violate the policy?[edit]

Since the policy specifically states "indiscriminate" and does not provide any guidelines for disallowing a certain level "discriminate" collection of information, then a discriminate collection of information would not violate the policy as stated in WP:IINFO.

Other policies are still in effect[edit]

Of course, this does not mean that any given collection or article would be immune from other policies. Just because a collection is discriminate does not mean it does not violate policies such as verifiability, neutral point of view, etc. Clearing the "discriminate collection" test is merely one part of many requirements to a successful article.

For example, the above list of the "Brady Bunch" characters certainly is a discriminate list of information--but that does not mean that it is a good article for Wikipedia. Additional notability and information would need to be brought together (and have) to create the article The Brady Bunch. Wikipedians have also created a list of the Brady Bunch characters. These articles are examples of how the "discriminate list" test can be used as a base of a quality entry into Wikipedia.

Conclusions[edit]

These arguments lead to the following conclusions:

  1. There is a difference between a "discriminate" collection and a "indiscriminate" collection
  2. An indiscriminate collection of information is one gathered without care or making distinctions or in a thoughtless manner.
  3. A discriminate collection of information is one gathered where care and/or distinctions about the information contained in the collection are made--in a thoughtful manner.
  4. A collection of information gathered in such a way--with care and/or distinctions, in a thoughtful manner--does not violate the policy as stated at WP:IINFO.
  5. This does not mean that the collection of information would not violate any other policy.

So, collections of information brought together with a reasonable amount of thought, care, and distinctions would certainly not violate policy. Enthusiastic editors are encouraged to put thought and care into collecting information for meaningful articles.

See also[edit]