|This page in a nutshell: Wikipedia's most important resource is its contributors. When considering the value of content in projectspace and userspace, don't just inflexibly apply policies and guidelines; think about the impact of the content on editors' feelings, and whether deleting the content may drive them away.|
Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, and an encyclopedia needs people to write it. Unlike most other reference works, we don't pay people to write for us, and there are very few incentives, perks or privileges associated with contributing. As such, our most valuable resource is neither money nor webspace, but Wikipedia's contributors, those dedicated people who take time out of their lives to edit, improve or maintain articles. In short, editors matter; and one of the important priorities of the Wikipedia community must be to recruit and retain good contributors. The encyclopedia simply cannot survive without human beings to build and maintain it. This should be taken into account in making decisions, particularly in miscellany for deletion discussions.
Think about the impact of deletions
From time to time, a good-faith editor who is contributing to the encyclopedia will create pages in their own userspace or in the project namespace which seem only tangentially related to Wikipedia, if at all. This may include large amounts of information about their likes, dislikes, hobbies, or political and religious views, or may include various wiki-games or "fun" pages. In general, this is because they are new to Wikipedia and are not familiar with the purpose of userspace. Many are younger users, and should be treated with consideration accordingly; all are human beings who may be affected by how the Wikipedia community treats them.
Frequently, a well-meaning long-term Wikipedian, who views their use of userspace as inappropriate, will throw the book at them, citing Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not and the userspace guidelines. They may nominate the user's pages for deletion, and say something along the lines of "This user has more userboxes than edits" or "If they're not interested in contributing to the encyclopedia, there's no point keeping their userpage". This is completely the wrong approach, as it is likely to drive the user away.
Instead, the approach to take is to tactfully try to encourage them to contribute to the encyclopedia. Keeping surplus pages around for a while does not do any significant harm to the encyclopedia; Wikipedia needs editors more than it needs webspace (and deletions don't actually free up webspace, as deleted material stays in the archives). What does harm Wikipedia is to drive an active good-faith contributor away by threatening their userpages with deletion. So, if you encounter a new user of this type, don't go for a deletion nomination as the first step. Instead, be nice to them, don't bite, and try to encourage them to concentrate more on editing the encyclopedia rather than their own userspace.
Note that this does not apply to blatant abuses of userspace. For instance, a user who is attempting to use their userspace for obvious advertising purposes (for an individual, business, charity or other organisation), and has already been warned that this is inappropriate, may justifiably have their pages deleted through the miscellany for deletion process. Such accounts are unlikely to be used for constructive contribution.
Policy is not a trump card
All too often, in deletion debates, people churn out references to policies and guidelines without actually relating them to what's best for the encyclopedia, or thinking about them. All too often, this happens at MfD in debates relating to userspace. For instance, someone's userpage will be put up for deletion on the grounds that "WP:NOT a free webhost"; other contributors will automatically agree, because Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not is a policy, and they assume that anyone who cites a policy must ipso facto be right. They fail to consider the fact that deleting someone's userpage will drive that contributor away, which is bad for the encyclopedia.
In a deletion debate, don't just use trite policy-based catchphrases like "Wikipedia is not X". While the core content policies serve as reference points, it's always more helpful to relate an argument to what's actually best for the encyclopedia, and justify it in detail.
Questions to consider in debating a deletion
When content in someone's userspace, or in the Wikipedia namespace, is put up for deletion using the miscellany for deletion process, don't just quote inflexible policies and guidelines, and don't blindly follow those who do. For instance, try not to do this:
- Delete. WP:NOT a free webhost. DeleteItAll 13:56, 9 September 2007 (UTC)
- Delete per above. OneWithTheCrowd 13:56, 9 September 2007 (UTC)
Instead, try to consider the following important questions.
- Does the content make an editor happy, or strengthen Wikipedia's sense of community and shared enjoyment? If so, this is an argument for keeping, as it makes them more likely to contribute to Wikipedia. Unless it can be shown that the content is harmful, the presumption should be in favour of keeping it.
- Will deleting the page actually do Wikipedia any good? Remember that deletions don't actually free up space, and, as per Wikipedia:Don't worry about performance, we're not meant to worry about the capacity of the servers. In general, unless a page is actively harmful to the project, there's no reason to delete it.
- Is it harmless? A lot of editors counter valid arguments to Keep by citing the redirect WP:HARMLESS, which is taken from the essay Wikipedia:Arguments to avoid in deletion discussions. While "it's harmless" is certainly not a valid reason for keeping encyclopedic content (such as articles, templates and images) which does not meet Wikipedia's policies and guidelines, it is a perfectly valid argument when applied to the Wikipedia namespace and to userspace. In general, content in these namespaces should only be removed if it's harmful to the encyclopedia. Remember, however, that user namespace is indexed in Google and other search engines. Consider whether outside users stumbling upon the material would harm the encyclopedia or not.