Wikipedia:Notability comparison test
This is an essay on notability.
It contains the advice or opinions of one or more Wikipedia contributors. This page is not an encyclopedia article, nor is it one of Wikipedia's policies or guidelines, as it has not been thoroughly vetted by the community. Some essays represent widespread norms; others only represent minority viewpoints.
This essay articulates a notability comparison test for articles on Wikipedia. It is based on the argument that another article B, the subject of which has the same amount of or less coverage (by independent, reliable sources) than that of the subject of another article A currently nominated for deletion, exists on Wikipedia, has survived one or more AfDs, has never been nominated for deletion, or never has its notability questioned via means other than an AfD(s); and thus A merits being kept for consistent application of policies.
In this essay, 'an article's notability' is a shorthand for 'the notability of an article's subject/topic.'
The argument on which this test is based is a parity argument regarding an article's notability. It raises a possibility of double standard being used on Wikipedia at the time of a particular discussion. A person who would like to make the argument usually starts by asking ’what about article A?‘ or ‘the same can be said of A.’ The now-unused Pokémon test is one particular past example of this argument. A parity argument involves showing that the justification that the other side uses to justify their conclusion also justifies another conclusion that turns out to be undesirable to them.
Example: If Person A argues that Wikipedia should not contain sexually explicit photographs as images in articles because they are pornographic, person B can respond to A that A's reasoning would also justify describing textbooks on anatomy and textbooks on human sexuality as pornographic and thus those textbooks should not contain sexually explicit photographs as illustrations. This conclusion is undesirable because a human sexuality textbook without photographs of human sexual anatomy is of little use to students. If A denies that their reasoning has this unintended consequence, then A is employing a double standard.
The uses of the parity argument by the former Soviet Union and modern-day Russia are sometimes called 'whataboutism'. Despite its notoriety, its instances are not always unsound. Their soundness depends on the similarities between the situational contexts (such as Crimea vs. Kosovo) used in them. Indeed, Americans should be careful when opposing unilateral declarations of independence given the circumstance of the founding of the United States.
For any topic (x) of a Wikipedia article under consideration for deletion and for any topic (y) of another Wikipedia article, if x has more coverage (per the notability guideline) than or equal amount of coverage compared to that of y, and a Wikipedia article on x does not violate what Wikipedia is not, then:
- If y is notable (meriting an article in Wikipedia), then x is also notable.
- If x is not notable, then y is also not notable (meaning that both the article on x and the article on y must be deleted).
The test relies on two premises:
- The amount of coverage (per the notability guideline) is graded (from low to high).
- Every Wikipedia article is subjected to the same notability criteria.
Premise 1: Amount of coverage is graded
On Wikipedia, an article being notable signifies that it merits inclusion in Wikipedia. Whether or not an article is notable depends on the amount of coverage by reliable sources that are independent of the article's subject. Since a subject can have more coverage than the coverage that another subject has, it follows that the amount of coverage is graded. This gradation is the basis for the test. As an illustration, suppose that, in order to be included in one's personal List of super-high mountains, a mountain must have a significant height (analogous to significant coverage for notability). If one knows that Denali is on the list and then one discovers the existence of a higher mountain than Denali, say Mount Everest, then one also discovers that Everest also belongs on the list because it is higher than Denali, which is already on the list.
Another example is the International Agency for Research on Cancer's inclusion of radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation on its list of agents possibly carcinogenic to human (Group 2B) while infrared and visible light are not included within the same list even though they have more potential to be carcinogenic to human by their having more energy than radio wave (from mobile phones), which is lower on the electromagnetic spectrum. This shows the that double standards are being employed here. Because of the spectrum and the photoelectric effect, if radio wave is possibly carcinogenic to human, then by parity, so are infrared and visible light. Thus, if one believes that the possibility of radiofrequency radiation from mobile phones warrants taking precaution in public policy making, then by parity, one also accepts, on pains of self-contradiction, that the infrared emitted by the human body and the visible light emitted by a desk lamp and the Sun also warrant the same amount of precaution. If one decided to speculate about other means that a radiation might be carcinogenic, then that would lead to more questions about substances that are already considered safe. This also shows why a correlational study in medicine cannot overrule physics, which determines the limits of mechanisms for possible causation.
Premise 2: A single standard is used
This one is pretty straightforward. If we use multiple standards, then we should have some specific, relevant reason for why we do so. Otherwise, only a single notability standard is used for every topic. The reason why using double standard is usually frowned upon is that the differences in the standards used on two things of the same sort are often arbitrary and merely an instance of special pleading. The specific notability guidelines (such as that of astronomical objects) for different topics are for determining a topic's coverage level given the context of the article within that field of study; they are not a different notability standard altogether.
Using the test
Care must be taken when trying to show that a topic has more coverage than or equal amount of coverage to that of another topic. While that United States has more coverage than Sacramento has is easy to be established, that Justin Bieber has more coverage than Kanye West has might not be. Also, a comparison would be most likely convincing if it is made between two topics within the same category (such as comparing one geographical feature to another or a politician to another).
Case study: Episodes of a TV series
On Wikipedia, every individual episode of several TV series each has its own article. These series include Game of Thrones, South Park, Star Trek: The Next Generation, American Horror Story, Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, and The Walking Dead. Some series have an article for most of their episodes (usually those of the older seasons): Family Guy and Modern Family. It is possible to justify creating an article for every episode of a series by citing the series's popularity, which ensures that significant coverage exists for every episode. However, whether or not this is the case for every of the series mentioned above is an open question. Also, a case can be made for creating an article for every episode of a series not mentioned above if one can show that that series is popular enough such that every of its episodes is covered more significantly (or equally significantly) than the episodes of one of the series mentioned above. For example, a comparison can be made between episodes of South Park (mentioned above) and episodes of House of Cards. Possible sources can be episode recaps and reviews on various news websites.