Notability history in Wikipedia
The concept of notability of the subject of an article as a deletion criterion on Wikipedia began (so far as there is a record) in early 2004, and has varied widely from proposal to proposal, from highly subjective concepts like "fame" or "importance", through incomprehensible ones like "actionability", to, finally, today's stable and more objective notability criterion – which still has its critics. No issue on Wikipedia has seen more debate, nor perhaps more heated debate, than some variation on notability as a dividing line on whether to allow or delete an article.
Below is a list of most if not all of the Wikipedia-wide guideline/policy proposals and essays relating to notability in some way or another, with their active development lifespan, and notes.
- Wikipedia:Notability a.k.a. WP:N (September 2006 – present) – Attempts to define "notability" objectively, as having multiple, independent reliable sources. Disposition: Active and stable Guideline (was Disputed and under heavy revision, while designated a guideline, ca. December 2006 – February 2007). May conflict with Wikipedia:Deletion policy's recognition of several, more subjective subject-specific notability criteria as actionable for article deletion. These issues have mostly been ironed out as of the late 2010s, though some subject-specific notability guidelines retain language that appears to suggest they supersede WP:N's general notability guideline (WP:GNG), causing sporadic debate.
- Wikipedia:Arguments to avoid in deletion discussions a.k.a. WP:AADD (August 2006 – present) – Multi-topic essay on just what it says, including various fallacious notability and non-notability arguments (e.g. at its "What about article x?" section). Disposition: Active and stable Essay, so heavily relied upon at WP:AFD and other XfDs that it should probably be tagged a Guideline.
- Notability arguments for and against deletion of articles (May 2005 – September 2006, with some additional minor activity) – Evolved into a pair of pro and con lists of arguments about the applicability of "notability" to the article deletion process; as such it retains value as a summary of the debate. Began as an attempt to define "notability" as "known outside of a narrow interest group" and (unsuccessfully) to distinguish "notability" from such ideas as "fame", "importance" or "notoriety". Disposition: Re-designated an Essay; remains semi-active as a catalog of generalized arguments, but not frequently cited at WP:AFD.
- Notability changes needed to policies (October 2005 – January 2006) Disposition: Inactive and largely moot.
- Non-notability (June 2006 – October 2006) – A counter-proposal to WP:N; was supported by "Non-notability/Essay" (below). Disposition: Rejected, per a Request for Arbitration.
- Significance a.k.a. Notability/Proposal (March 2006 – May 2006) — The first known attempt at an objective criterion (as a proposal or essay), which clearly influenced the later "general notability guideline" of WP:N (via the Uncle G essay, below which called the same concept the "primary notability criterion") - in longer wording, it was the first to call for multiple, independent reliable sources. Disposition: Inactive and moot (supplanted by WP:N.
- [Page name unknown] (specific dates unknown; ca. early 2006?) – A proposal that defined notability in terms of "actionability" (apparently adapted from WP:FAC), such that if an article topic could be researched, could be found to have a fan base, could stimulate a lot of talk page discussion, or otherwise something could be done with regard to it, it was notable (thus even a rock star's guitar that he'd named "Betty" could be "notable" if interviews or a fansite mentioned it, or Wikipedians argued over why it was named that), while otherwise a topic was non-notable (e.g. flavor of particular kinds of garden soil). Disposition: It was so soundly rejected it was apparently WP:MFD'd, as no trace of it remains. If anyone has further information on this "unusual" proposal, please provide details.
- Importance (August 2004 – August 2006) – Criteria included the ill-defined "important", "famous" and "relevant", and even more questionable ones such as having a longer-than-stub article already, or declared to be "important" by multiple editors on the article's talk page (echoes of this idea remain in the Criteria for speedy deletion, in which articles that simply assert the notability of their topic, even without sources, cannot be speedily deleted on grounds of non-notability). This one is principally interesting for its talk page rather than its sparse and confused content. Disposition: Inactive and moot (replaced by more objective criteria on the road to WP:N).
- Fame and importance (January 2004 – April 2006) – Began as a poll on whether notability criteria should be applied to Wikipedia. Poll results: 57–38, no consensus, with much ado about Jimbo's position on the issue. The difficulty of coming to consensus on determining what criteria/definition to apply is well-recorded here. Disposition: Inactive and moot. Note: Most of the content was moved to its talk page because it turned into a discussion rather than a project/essay; the non-talk page is just a pointer to the talk page.
- Wikipedia:Notability/Historical/Arguments (September 2006 – November 2007) – More of a consensus discussion and a catalogue of pro and con arguments.
- On Notability (a.k.a. the Uncle G notability essay and the PNC essay (July 2006 – December 2006, with minor updates) – the origin of the "general notability criterion" (formerly "primary notability criterion") as currently used in WP:N and the more objective approach now favored. Disposition: Active User Essay; as such it is not any form of policy, but the Wikipedia:Notability guideline is its direct descendant in many respects. No longer frequently mentioned directly, though it was into the early 2010s.
- Notability and Deletion policy (July 2006 – July 2007, with minor updates) – Lingering problems surrounding integration of WP:N into Wikipedia Deletion policy and processes, and ideas on what to do about them. Disposition: An only marginally active User Essay, some of the concerns raised by which remained current into the early 2010s, it is not longer frequently mentioned.
- Inclusion is not an indicator of notability (June 2006 – March 2007) – A short piece that essentially says "just because there are other similar articles in Wikipedia doesn't mean that the article in question is automatically notable". Disposition: Historical and moot (largely supplanted by Wikipedia:Arguments to avoid in deletion discussions#What about article x?).
- List of ways to verify notability of articles (July 2005 – September 2006) – Rather skeletal list of means for determining if an article topic is notable enough for an article, ranging from the search engine test to library research; criticized as encouraging unreliable methods (methods still over-used in WP:AFD even today). Disposition: Rejected.
- Non-notability/Essay (July 2005 – September 2006) – A perhaps well-reasoned essay in defense of the Non-notability proposal (above) that in the end was not very persuasive. Disposition: Inactive, and moot.