Wikipedia talk:Centralized discussion/lists of unusual things

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There appears to be a wide range of opinions among Wikipedia editors on the question of whether "lists of unusual things" deserve a place here or not. One viewpoint is that it's never possible to objectively define "unusual", and so these lists are inherently incapable of meeting our neutral point of view, and that they constitute Original Research as the inclusion of any given entry in one of these lists is in effect synthesis. Others argue against this, saying that the word "unusual" in this context is just a shorthand way of saying "meets the criteria for inclusion on this page", and that as long as those criteria are stated, we are not violating neutral point of view, but just exercising our collective editorial judgment on the way in which information is grouped together into articles.

Several deletion discussions have taken place recently for a number of these pages, some resulting in deletion, some resulting in the articles being kept. I've created this centralised discussion because I feel there is a need for some consistency, and that the fate of these lists should not just depend on the majority view of the editors who happen to contribute to individual deletion discussions. If there is genuinely a rational basis which distinguishes the pages which have been deleted from those which have been kept, then we don't have an issue, of course, but try as I might, I can't see that rational basis coming through in the deletion discussions - similar arguments are used throughout the different discussions, and it largely seems to be the luck of the draw which determines whether an article stays or goes. I'm deliberately taking a neutral position in this debate, and hopefully this introduction doesn't favour one side over the other.

Some other things to consider:

  • are pages which limit themselves to describing the concept of an "unusual thing" better or worse than lists of unusual things?
  • is the grouping of different kinds of "unusual" together under one heading part of the problem? Would it be acceptable to define the individual categories of unusual and have separate pages on each of those?
  • are editors over-interpreting the idea that we're not a traditional encyclopaedia by wanting the inclusion of pages of amusing content, or are editors favouring deletion of these pages clinging too closely to traditional perceptions of what an encyclopedia should contain?
  • are there any better ways of naming these lists - for example "lists of things considered unusual", which would deal with objections?

A list of the lists of unusual things can be found in the Lists of things considered unusual category.

You can find some recent deletion discussions at:

The lists of unusual personal names and place names were deleted but I've saved copies as sub-pages of this centralised discussion page here and here.

SP-KP (talk) 17:59, 24 January 2009 (UTC)

Initial responses[edit]

Some of these lists are well sourced and defined, and very encyclopedic, such as List of musical works in unusual time signatures. Some are less so. I created the category to see what the standard (if any) was. There is not a wikimedia project for the less encyclopedic but well sourced lists... perhaps one could be started so that they can be trans-wikified. NJGW (talk) 17:59, 27 January 2009 (UTC)
Some of these articles are well-sourced, but none of them have sourcing that the facts they relate are "unusual", that's in the eye of the beholder. If the death, word, chemical compound, etc. is notable and sourced, by all means have an article on that subject, but to synthesize them into a "funny" or "unusual" article is purely WP:POV, WP:OR, and WP:SYNTH, as would List of people with funny faces or List of funny people or List of funny synonyms for sex or List of unusual religious practices or List of unusual foods (note we just deleted a category on foods that make you cringe, now with the toned down "unusual", can we just revive it?). Carlossuarez46 (talk) 18:07, 27 January 2009 (UTC)
I'm positive that List of musical works in unusual time signatures is good enough, especially if we wp:use common sense and consider that the 'unpopular' time signatures are also the 'unusual' ones. I note that you did not comment on the fact that this is an encyclopedic list. Similar sourcing could probably be found for other lists (ie Unusual types of gramophone records and probably List of unusual units of measurement), though not all of them. Interestingly, acceptable sources for List of unusual deaths have been pointed out several times, but people keep ignoring that. Some lists may even be keepable with a different name (for example, to keep traffic light from getting too bloated from a merge, Unusual uses of traffic lights could be moved to something along the lines of "non-standard ..." or "enhanced capability ..." or just plain "variations of ...").
Per the wp:PRESERVE policy I think we need to be thinking of solutions for what to do with the good information that most of these lists have than to just come up with excuses to delete them. NJGW (talk) 18:37, 27 January 2009 (UTC)
  • What's unsual usually has some POV. Look at Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations and Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, two shows where the hosts travel the world to eat things calculated to disgust or tittlate their (North American) viewers. What they choose to eat could be included in a List of unusual foods but that's the bias - what would someone from Papua New Guinea or Nepal or Gabon think about Big Macs, Spam, and macaroni & cheese? Probably that those, too, are "unusual". But since the articles seem more for gestalt therapy than for encyclopedia content, everyone's free to add whatever death, etc., that they find unusual. Might as well join in! Carlossuarez46 (talk) 22:35, 27 January 2009 (UTC)
How does this apply? The music article uses a wp:RS source, not a pop culture TV program. There's a huge difference. Also, people living in rainforrests (or indeed any non-Westernized culture) have different opinions than us on all of the basic policies governing this WP (ie what constitutes verifiability, neutrality, civility, etc etc). You have also completely ignored for the third time the fact that some of these lists are already or could be encyclopedic beyond a simple amusment value. NJGW (talk) 22:57, 27 January 2009 (UTC)
  • I am grateful to the List of unusual deaths for its salutary account of Philitas of Cos who is said to have studied false arguments and erroneous word-usage so intensely that he wasted away and starved to death! I shall retire to have dinner rather than doing likewise... Colonel Warden (talk) 18:41, 27 January 2009 (UTC)
The merit I see in these articles is that they can give encyclopedic treatment to subjects that historically haven't gotten it. Certainly, there are plenty of books and newspaper articles that have been written about subjects which the authors described as unusual, odd, weird, "strange but true", etc. [1], which would be enough to overcome the POV concern about the name. In the same way, there have been plenty of publications about what the author describes as an unusual name-- H.L. Mencken did this in the past, Irving Wallace in the 1970s, and someone out there now. Again, Wikipedia would be the place for someone to find the verifiable source (the classic example is Ima Hogg, daughter of Texas Governor Jim Hogg-- that's real, while the legend that she had a sister named "Ura Hogg" is not. Because of advances in being able to search for verifiable sources-- Google Books, newspaperarchive.com, etc. -- we now have the means for answering the question that the books of odd names, funny laws, strange stories, etc. never could, which is to show where the information came from, so that one can "consider the source". I have always voted to delete articles that had been nothing more than bulletin boards of unsourced trivia, the worst example being "Famous last words". But I've always supported those articles where a professional attitude was taken to the subject. Mandsford (talk) 18:51, 27 January 2009 (UTC)
  • I wasn't involved in many of these deletion discussions, but I believe List of chemical compounds with unusual names is an exception. Chemical compounds normally have names standardized with IUPAC nomenclature, anything that doesn't fit those specifications can be considered unusual. --Explodicle (T/C) 19:06, 27 January 2009 (UTC)
    • Yes, although that isn't what the article is about; the chemicals listed in the article are mostly substances whose standardized names are amusing for some reason. Which ties in to the point I was going to make: in most of these cases, what makes the items under consideration "unusual" is actually that they are, for some reason or other, amusing. I've never like the "unusual" in these articles titles, as it seems to me to be a euphemism for what the articles are actually trying to do, a gloss of objectivity. But of course the articles aren't objective, they just sound like they should be more objective, because "unusual" is easier to define than "amusing" or "funny".
    • That said, I do in general support keeping them. In most cases, the fact that people find the items amusing or funny can be attributed to reliable sources, for example the chemical names article is sourced largely to a list maintained by a lecturer at the University of Bristol, IIRC. I really don't see why we can't discuss what people find funny, as long as we have sources that show people do, in fact, find them funny. What we should stop doing is calling it something else because we think it sounds more respectable. It isn't. JulesH (talk) 19:27, 27 January 2009 (UTC)
    • Trivial names, which are the names most often used, are generally not standardized. Virtually all compounds with any history have a trivial name. This cannot be the criterion of inclusion. The actual content of the article was names like fucitol, psicose and so on. Generally these lists are OK, but this case is borderline, especially when it is mostly copied from another site. --Vuo (talk) 19:36, 27 January 2009 (UTC)
  • In general, I support keeping these sorts of lists even when their notability may be marginal. These are the kinds of things that are quirky and fun about wikipedia, so I can see some IAR argument being made. That said, SYN/NOR are big problems on lists like these. I see the points made in the section below, but I'm not convinced. The act of making the list (depending on the basis for the list itself) may sometimes represent original research through synthesis. Many of the "IPC" lists fall into this category--an item makes it on to the list only because the editor adding it interpreted its reference somewhere (usually in family guy) as some induction into the cultural zeitgeist. So long as these lists have some secondary sourcing, are reasonably patrolled to prevent them from becoming a cruft-magnet, and don't represent NOR/SYN, I'm ok with including them on the whole. Protonk (talk) 21:21, 27 January 2009 (UTC)
Chemistry is very much an exception, because whole books, (and many articles in Journal of Chemical Education) have been devoted to just that under just that actual name. So in this particular case there excellent 3rd party sourcing for what is considered in the field to be unsual, and there is no need at all for us to use our own personal views of it in order to write an article. (But it might well have seemed unlikely to anyone who didn't know the subject).
But for all I know, there may e similar published material in other subjects also. I wouldn't be the least surprised to come across a discussion of, say, unsusual geogrphic names, using either the actual word "unusual" or a close equivalent. DGG (talk) 21:33, 27 January 2009 (UTC)
I have just remembered that Mencken's The American Language has a section devoted to what he considers unusual first names of children, & I think he's a RS for that. so it does seem that there are possibilities in other fields also. DGG (talk) 21:39, 27 January 2009 (UTC)
  • Comment. I'm unconvinced this discussion will lend itself either to always keeping or always removing lists of unusual things. These should be decided on a case-by-case basis and indeed there are reliable sources that cover various topics like this as well as interest in our readers and editors for having such lists. The rest remains, IMHO, up to editors to do their best at writing good articles and finding the sources for the content. If the aim was directing towards creating a policy of some sort I would think our existing policies work adequately even if mistakes are made on occasion. -- Banjeboi 03:30, 28 January 2009 (UTC)

What constitutes synthesis and other issues.[edit]

Synthesis occurs when an editor puts together multiple sources to reach a novel conclusion that is not in any of the sources. First off, if every piece of music time signature, word or death in such articles can be verified as being unusual, funny or what have you, then we are simply collating, not synthesising as no novel conclusion has been drawn. If someone added cucumber to the list of funny words the usual editing process would only allow it if he or she could find a source saying it was funny, else, individually, its inclusion would constitute original research, not the act of making the list.

So this is a non-argument in terms of original research.

What is more relevant is the issue of notability. I could make a List of cities with women called Glenda living in them, and back it up with all kinds of sources. I would not be advancing any novel conclusion, yet I would expect speedy delete.--Mongreilf (talk) 20:55, 27 January 2009 (UTC)

well, a name being unusual is a little more interesting and distinctive than your deliberately absurd example, which is really a bit of a straw man. (For that matter, I do not see any speedy delete criterion which would apply.)
The real factor is V, the need to actually verify that a name is considered unusual. DGG (talk) 21:36, 27 January 2009 (UTC)
if this is an argument about verifiability (which i agree it may well be), then these type of articles need no special discussion. My example was not intended as a straw man for these articles, but as a way of pointing out notability was the issue, not verifiability, which, as i said, needs no special discussion here--Mongreilf (talk) 13:07, 28 January 2009 (UTC)

Source A - "Y is an unusual time signature", Source B - "X music has a time signature of Y", Novel conclusion - X has an unusual time signature. As it is the music article doesn't even provide this. Not only are there no sources that say that any particular works have an unusual time signature but it doesn't even provide any sources stating that any time signature mentioned is unusual - a definition has been created simply by excluding any signatures listed as "popular" in one source. WP:SYN also says "if the sources cited are not directly related to the article subject, then the editor is engaged in original research." - none of the sources given in the article appear to relate to unusual time signatures. Guest9999 (talk) 07:56, 28 January 2009 (UTC)

SYN involves cases of A and B, therefore C, but it does not involve instances of logical tautology: if A, then B; if B, then C; therefore if A then C. SYN goes on to say " Summarizing source material without changing its meaning is not synthesis; it is good editing." How is calling the unpopular time signatures "unusual" a changing of the meaning? It's not. It's efficient definition of the subject using a single non-contorvercial source. There is very little to nothing in that list that a professional musican or music professor would argue with, making your argument seem to me rather pointy. Besides that issue, the subject of less used time signatures is often discussed, and when discussed is phrased as "unusual time signatures"[2] (though sometimes the term "unusual ratios" is used interchangeably[3]. NJGW (talk) 09:56, 28 January 2009 (UTC)
Then surely rather than relying on tautology, one of those musicians/music professors will have written something down that can be used as a source? A separate issue - the section that this particular list seems to relate to at Time signature#Complex time signatures states that "these more complex meters were common in non-Western music" - being common is generally not a great indicator of being unusual. Guest9999 (talk) 10:20, 28 January 2009 (UTC)
That is wholly incorrect. The main source of the article lists a list of time signatures, and then states "We have listed all the popular time signatures." NJGW (talk) 10:25, 28 January 2009 (UTC)
I realise that, but the Wikipedia article (which admittedly lacks an inline citation) claims that complex time signatures - such as those listed in the article - were common in non-western music. If this is the case then it seems like one western publication could easily only have been identifying the certain time signatures which were popular at the time of writing in the writer's locale - leaving a pretty flimsy definition of unusual for the purposes of an encyclopaedic treatment. Of course Wikipedia is not a reliable source so maybe whoever added it to the article was mistaken or just made it up. Guest9999 (talk) 10:37, 28 January 2009 (UTC)
For someone as sensitive about SYN as you are, I'm supprised you are suggesting that the source in question is saying that only the Western time signatures are the popular ones, or that only complex signatures are listed at the Unusual-time-sig list. Do you have something to back this up with other than an unsourced section of a Wikipedia article? NJGW (talk) 10:41, 28 January 2009 (UTC)
Judging a source to not be reliable for a certain purpose - in this case identifying what time signatures can be classified as "unusual" - will not introduce any original research into the encyclopaedia, assuming a source can be used for something that it does not explicitly state, will. Guest9999 (talk) 10:48, 28 January 2009 (UTC)
"We have listed all the popular time signatures," is pretty explicit. The other sources I have linked to are even more so. Where is this going? NJGW (talk) 10:52, 28 January 2009 (UTC)

The point appears to be that any official policy, strictly used, has unintended consequences. By the strict use of the OR rules, we could have no lists of anything unless it has been previously published as a list! And if the list is copyright, then even those could not be used <g>. Collect (talk) 09:30, 28 January 2009 (UTC)

Usually lists are used for either navigational purposes or as extensions of existing articles where inclusion in the main article would be impractical for reasons of style or size. If there were corresponding articles in this instance (e.g. Unusual deaths, Unusual car door designs, etc.) which described the general topic and showed it to be notable then I don't think anyone - or at least far fewer - would have a problem with these lists. As it is the only thing that currently provide context for the lists are lead sections which range from virtually non-existent (this is a list of X) to paragraphs of original research and arbitrary editor defined standards for inclusion. Guest9999 (talk) 09:50, 28 January 2009 (UTC)
There are whole books written about strange and unusual deaths, and I'm sure similar sources could be found saying that gull-wing and suicide doors are unusual/not ordinary/odd/hard to find/noteworthy. Some of these lists have issues, but you are not choosing the ones that can't be sourced. NJGW (talk) 10:00, 28 January 2009 (UTC)
Unusual to who? Why not just have a list of cars with gull-wing doors, that would be simple, objective and easily sourcable; why should the fact that some people classify gull-wing doors as unusual be relevant to an encyclopaedic treatment of the topic. Equally, many deaths have been described as tragic, would a list of tragic deaths be appropriate? To remain neutral things like this should be based on objective facts (as far as is possible) not cherry picking anyone's personal opinions - published or otherwise - in order to group things together. Guest9999 (talk) 10:30, 28 January 2009 (UTC)
I'm sorry, but that's a red herring. There are no books written about deaths that are considered tragic, but there are books written about deaths that are considered unusual (some might even say that all deaths are tragic, so it's not an unusual enough phenomenon to write a book about!). As for the cars, it's another straw man, as we are clearly talking about frequency of occurance/usage... not shock value or some such quality. NJGW (talk) 10:36, 28 January 2009 (UTC)
Surely then "infrequent" - which would at least be quantifiable - would be a better term to use than "unusual"? Guest9999 (talk) 10:44, 28 January 2009 (UTC)
I'm willing to put money on historians and car magazines using the term "unusual" order's of magnitude more often than "infrequent." I don't see how it's controvercial to call suicide doors unusual. NJGW (talk) 10:48, 28 January 2009 (UTC)
But as you say aren't they are only considered unusual because they are used infrequently? Apparently suicide doors were commonly found on pre-war cars [4]. Guest9999 (talk) 10:58, 28 January 2009 (UTC)
All this unusual/infrequent/what constitutes unusual is getting toward OR in a way that can be avoided simply by going back to sources. If "books have been written" then use the terms they use. Not allowing in (near) synonyms (the article is titled unusual, but the source defines it as strange) would be ridiculous.--Mongreilf (talk) 13:32, 28 January 2009 (UTC)
But there is no authority that defines the usualness or otherwise of things like car doors; what is unusual to one person isn't necessary unusual to the next - all we'd end up with is a list of all things ever referred to as unusual, a standard which is arbitrary and will inevitably lead to conflict. As the link given about shows, suicide doors might be classed as typical by the curator of a museum of pre-war automobiles but be considered unusual by a modern day motoring journalist. How would that be reconciled in an encyclopaedia article on unusual doors? Isn't it misleading to group together different statements made by different people in order to try and create a unified topic? Guest9999 (talk) 15:32, 28 January 2009 (UTC)
Of course there are authorities, the experts in car doors you mention. The problem of whether an authority is correct and any conflicts between authorities is a different matter, but wikipedia evolved methods a long time ago to decide what constitutes an authority and what to do when there are several authorities in disagreement. You just express that conflict in the article. Presumably "Suicide doors are considered an unusual blah blah blah [citation] though expert X disagrees blah blah blah [second citation]"
Many if not most articles "group together different statements made by different people in order to try and create a unified topic", not just lists. Perhaps this makes those articles misleading too.--Mongreilf (talk) 21:57, 28 January 2009 (UTC)

These should all go[edit]

Any list where the inclusion criteria include whether something is considered unusual or not is an inherent violation of WP:NPOV, a probable violation of WP:NOR and WP:SYNTH, and quite possibly a violation of WP:CSB. For example, in a list of unusual names, I would include "Rashad" (picking something completely at random) because very few people here in Ireland have that name. But I don't doubt that the name is very common in any number of countries. Similarly, I'd include durians in a list of unusual fruit, but in (say) Singapore, they're all over the place. As such, these lists don't conform to any number of Wikipedia policies and should be deleted. Stifle (talk) 09:19, 28 January 2009 (UTC)

(Of course, durians could be included[5] in a List of fruits that cannot legally be carried on certain public transport systems. I don't think the list would violate any of the policies cited. But it would probably be a very short list. Aymatth2 (talk) 15:34, 29 January 2009 (UTC))
  • Unusual is just another name for a list of common criteria which would make an article name impractical if renamed. - Mgm|(talk) 10:05, 28 January 2009 (UTC)
  • A list of unusual fruit is not encyclopedic, but a list of unusual musical time signatures is... and is discussed using that exact term in scholarly work (see above). The unusual deaths topic has books written on it. There is no possible rational for wholesale deletion of articles just because they use the term "unusual." NJGW (talk) 10:11, 28 January 2009 (UTC)
Well I was arguing on the assumption that names would only be included in a list of unusual names if it was verifiable that they were unusual, rather than an editor deciding they were. If constructed from the latter then yes these articles should all go, but I would have assumed that they weren't, not having read them all.--Mongreilf (talk) 13:15, 28 January 2009 (UTC)
I read some lol. They are so OR and unverified. But as ever I'm more in favour of tagging and improving, than deleting.--Mongreilf (talk) 13:38, 28 January 2009 (UTC)
  • Isn't there a policy somewhere that says "Wikipedia is not Ripley's Believe It or Not!"? But I am undecided. Assuming there is some way to verify that almost any reader would consider each list entry unusual, and assuming a list is more than just names but includes some well-sourced information on the unusual things, I can't see much harm in it. But almost inevitably these lists violate WP:NPOV, WP:NOR and WP:SYNTH to some extent. Maybe there is no general rule. Aymatth2 (talk) 14:40, 28 January 2009 (UTC)
Inherently funny words do exist, it's not made up despite the state of the article currently. They may be ideophones and expressive words. --Vuo (talk) 15:11, 28 January 2009 (UTC)

Let me ignore all rules and ask a fundamental question. Does deleting these lists make wikipedia a better encyclopedia? I think the answer is a resounding "No!". I think readers find these articles interesting and informative and are not surprised to find them here. If the material is sourced, the articles should stay. --Bduke (Discussion) 20:42, 28 January 2009 (UTC)

Sure. But that's the same as saying "all pink rhinos eat chocolate", because there are neither any pink rhinos nor lists of unusual things that are sourced. Stifle (talk) 19:35, 30 January 2009 (UTC)

These lists, when properly based on reliable sources, do not violate any policies or guidelines[edit]

Note that I'm separately signing each of the following arguments to allow for separate debate on each subtopic.

Neutral point of view[edit]

Properly done, these lists do not "inherently", or otherwise, violate the neutral point of view. NPOV does not mean we avoid points of view, it means we document them fairly and accurately, from a neutral perspective, based on reliable sources. To quote: "All Wikipedia articles and other encyclopedic content must be written from a neutral point of view, representing fairly, and as far as possible without bias, all significant views that have been published by reliable sources." If the view that certain things are "unusual" is published by reliable sources, then NPOV says that it can be documented. If there is controversy, than that controversy should be documented as well, but note that the controversy must be published in reliable sources as well. If there is a published controversy about the "unusualness" of something, then we can document it, but we cannot use our own opinion to decide something is not unusual any more than we can use to decide that it is unusual. It is actually a violation of NPOV to delete reliably sourced information just because we think it is biased, if there is no reliable source to support the view that it is biased! DHowell (talk) 06:08, 29 January 2009 (UTC)

And in many instances these lists are NPOV in esse -- that is, they do not promote any point of view by virtue of being a list. Collect (talk) 16:59, 29 January 2009 (UTC)
How about something like: "Lists of unusual people, events, things etc. should be avoided if there may be controversy about whether an entry belongs in the list (e.g. List of unusual food - no food is unusual to the people that commonly eat it) or if inclusion in the list may be offensive to some readers, whatever the quality of the sources (e.g. List of unusually ugly people)"? Aymatth2 (talk) 18:03, 29 January 2009 (UTC)
Well I would qualify that to say that lists should be avoided if the inclusion of most of the entries would be controversial (which would prohibit, for example, almost any list based on negative traits about living people without impeccable sources and attention to NPOV - I could, however, see a list of people with unusual deformities, as long as it was limited to notable people already well-documented as such, for example in both medical journals and mainstream media). But just because a few entries might be controversal should not be a reason to delete an entire list. Also, I'm sure there are unusual foods which are not "commonly eaten" in any culture (I doubt that monkey brains are commonly eaten even in China). And some foods described as "unusual" by reliable sources may be those that could be commonly eaten by a relatively tiny group of people. One could start with Edible Plants and Animals: Unusual Foods from Aardvark to Zamia as one source for such an article. DHowell (talk) 04:53, 4 February 2009 (UTC)

Original research and Synthesis to advance a novel position[edit]

I find it disturbing that simple logical conclusions based on reliably sourced and uncontroverted premises are considered by some to be prohibited original research or synthesis to advance a novel position. Los Angeles is in California; California is in the United States; therefore, Los Angeles is in the United States. George Clooney is an actor; George Clooney was born, raised, and currently lives in the United States; therefore George Clooney is an American actor. These are simple conclusions that do not advance any controversial positions. We do not need a reliable source to state a simple conclusion when we have reliable sources stating the premises, and neither the premises nor the conclusion are controversial. Similarly, if a reliable source says X is an unusual time signature, and another reliable source says Y is in time signature X, and there is no reliably-sourced controversy over either of these premises, then it is not original research to say "Y is in an unusual time signature." This is a far cry from the example at WP:SYNTH, which introduces an unsourced premise ("If Jones's claim that he consulted the original sources is false..."), and a sourced but irrelevant piece of information ("...The Harvard manual does not call violating this rule 'plagiarism'."), to infer a controversial conclusion (that Jones did not commit plagiarism; this is clearly controversial since it contradicts what Smith said). To expand on User:Collect's argument above, the overinterpretations of policies I am seeing advanced here could conceivably prohibit us from having any lists at all—if a list that wasn't strictly derived from a single reliable source would violate WP:OR, than a list that was would either violate WP:COPY, if the source is copyrighted, or WP:NOTMIRROR, if it is not! DHowell (talk) 06:08, 29 January 2009 (UTC)

We can also rely on court decisions (specifically the ones regarding phone directories) which held that there was no valid copyright on lists of facts, and that such lists did not represent "research." Thus the issue of copyright conserns also raised a ways above, fail. Collect (talk) 17:02, 29 January 2009 (UTC)

Countering systemic bias[edit]

Of course this isn't a policy or a guideline, but a WikiProject, so lists do not in any way "violate" it; nonetheless, note that "this project concentrates upon remedying omissions (entire topics, or particular sub-topics in extant articles) rather than on either (1) protesting inappropriate inclusions, or (2) trying to remedy issues of how material is presented." We generally don't counter systemic bias by deleting information, we counter systemic bias by adding information that has been neglected due to the demographics of our editor base. If the article cites a reliable source to say "Rashad" is an unusual name, and you have a source saying that, for example, Rashad is a very popular name in Kenya, then you can either: (1) annotate the name in the list with that bit of information; (2) consult the original source cited and see if it actually supports the idea that Rashad is unusual, and if it doesn't, remove it; or (3) present your find on the talk page and discuss whether the name should be removed or how we can best editorially present the information from a neutral point of view. DHowell (talk) 06:08, 29 January 2009 (UTC)

  • Agreed and Global Keep. I changed my mind about unusual chemical names because despite virtually copying another site; Wikipedia is still creating an original work. Not a paper encyclopedia and so on. There is really no compelling reason to delete all lists of unusual things. --Vuo (talk) 15:01, 29 January 2009 (UTC)
  • Global keep for several reasons. First, I am uncomfortable with anything that even remotely blanket-bans a topic, which I fear this could be interpreted as. Second, I agree with the idea put forward in the proposal that perhaps the use of the word "unusual" is the issue, and that a POV-neutral word could be found. (And no, I have no idea what that might be, either, but I'm sure someone can figure it out.) I am not saying that a free pass should be given to any list -- I've voted to delete a number of them in AFD in my day, as I've also voted to keep a number of them -- but they should continue to be examined on a case by case basis. Some topics are simply so obscure as to be NN in the extreme. Others violate WP:NOR (which I do not necessarily equate with the POV issue of the word "unusual"). Others might bring up WP:BLP or WP:V issues. But still others might be perfectly fine, and that includes lists where the verification is provided on the articles linked to in the list, not necessarily the list article itself. (In other words, a blue linked article listed includes the necessary verification of the "unusualness" in question.) What I would like to see is perhaps a sub-board of AFD to discuss challenges to these (and other) List articles, as the only category of article I've seen discriminated against worse in AFD than lists are porn-related articles. 23skidoo (talk) 03:34, 30 January 2009 (UTC)

This discussion is a symptom of a process that saddens me[edit]

As to the actual merits of the proposal, I have little more to offer than to ditto DHowell. I would hasten to add my longstanding position that lists, generally, do not necessarily require separate references: at least not if they link to referenced articles in a way that makes it clear that the subject belongs on the list.

Indexing has always been the Achilles heel of Wikipedia. I like encyclopedias and similar reference books because they serve as vademecums: books that invite haphazard and sometimes pointless browsing, as fancy may lead. Lists of unusual things are quite valuable, because they help the site become a better vademecum, and as such feed our readers' wholesome curiosity. Lists of unusual things may well represent one editor's idiosyncratic vision as to what feature makes a series of otherwise random articles share a feature that interests that editor. This does not turn them into "original research" or "original synthesis": because original synthesis must advance a new and original position, a novel conclusion that is not in any of the sources. The lists in question are simply compilations that share something curious in common. It may be that some lists may well be made to advance a new position: but those lists are unlikely to appear under the rubric of "lists of unusual things". - Smerdis of Tlön (talk) 15:19, 29 January 2009 (UTC)

Well you would say that, Tlön being on the List of socially unusual fictional planets--Mongreilf (talk) 18:08, 29 January 2009 (UTC)
Wow! What an interesting article subject. I'm off to read it. ChildofMidnight (talk) 21:06, 30 January 2009 (UTC)

Summing up and next steps[edit]

My reading of the discussion above is that those who have contributed are largely in support of the view that these lists should remain, and that concerns around encyclopedicness, verifiability, original research etc. fot these lists as a whole are not valid; individual lists may need major cleanup but that's a cleanup issue, not a reason for deletion. Does anyone disagree that that's an accurate summing up?

Next steps? The obvious one seems to be to initiate deletion reviews for the two deleted articles. Any other suggestions beyond that? SP-KP (talk) 11:38, 1 February 2009 (UTC)

The concerns are not valid for some of the lists because they are well sourced, and clearly not OR. Other lists may only need to switch sources to technically avoid OR, but are otherwise fine. If there are issues with any of the lists, they should be dealt with on a case-by case basis... there is no way to approach all of these as a whole because they are not similar topics and not written or sourced in similar styles. NJGW (talk) 02:08, 2 February 2009 (UTC)
Thanks. I think what you're saying is that it's perfectly possible for any given list to meet entry requirements and not fall foul of policy, and that we already have a few such articles, which editors of those articles which don't current meet our entry criteria could use as "models". And that no article should be deleted unless just because it doesn't meet the standards set by these better articles, and instead they should be improved. Is that right? SP-KP (talk) 17:31, 2 February 2009 (UTC)


Delete Spurious Lists[edit]

Whether the section above an accurate summing up or not, the aim of Wikipedia is to create a high-quality free online encyclopedia.

Keeping lists because people like them or find them interesting is not a good reason to keep them. Keeping lists because they are well sourced is not a reason to keep them. They should be kept only if they are genuinely informative, and in most cases only when they link to a long page that is a proper presentation of the topic with key terms, phrases, background, history, central arguments etc (as relevant) described in context.

Even a list of ("normal") fruit has limited use - information is best conveyed by describing the general characteristics, properties, biological classifications, chemical composition, social and historical relevance of fruit etc, with some select examples. Then people have learnt something about fruit. A list is not, of itself, encyclopedic.

From the Five Pillars:

"Wikipedia is not... an indiscriminate collection of information"[6]

But a proliferation of lists tends to make Wikipedia just that, because the general criteria for inclusion in a list is not very discriminating, e.g "if the item is a fruit and it's unusual, then collect it on one page". That's just two criteria, no linking of concepts, no progression in the presentation of concepts, none of the presentation of multiple arguments and viewpoints to follow that you would find in a good article. In short, lists don't tend to make you think much, and they don't often teach you much. Specific examples should be presented in an exhaustive context, wherever possible.

That's just lists in general. As for lists of unusual things...

It seems to me that most lists of unusual things would fall under WP:OC#SUBJECTIVE

"Adjectives which imply a subjective inclusion criterion should not be used in naming/defining a category.
Examples include such subjective words as: famous, notable, great, etc; any reference to size: large, small, tall,
short, etc; or distance: near, far, etc; or character trait: beautiful, evil, friendly, greedy, honest,
intelligent, old, popular, ugly, young, etc."[7]


That is, "unusual" is a value judgement, unless "unusual" in the particular instance is used as a specific technical term.

So almost all of these lists should be deleted, yes?

Also, triviality:

"Note that this also includes grouping people by trivial circumstances of their deaths, such as categorizing
people by the age at which they died or by whether they still had unreleased or unpublished work at the time of
their death. Even though such categories may be interesting to some people, they aren't particularly
encyclopedic."[8]


Not only that, but I would think they usually contravene WP:NOTCATALOG too.

Unless I am missing a subtlety, I propose that, to begin with, all existing orphaned unusual lists of things are put up for deletion under one nomination, except those lists where there is a specific technical meaning for "unusual". If the subject is noteworthy, then a proper article can be started on it.

All lists of unusual things that have parents should be merged (and trimmed) where possible. Ideally, they should then be woven into the articles contextually (depending on sensible maximum size of list).

Lists of unusual deaths and fruits can be hosted off-site.

The argument which proposes that spurious lists might lead users to genuinely informative content is fundamentally flawed. For each spurious list to work in such a way, it would have to lead to a non-spurious article every time. Otherwise, the clutter-to-content ratio just increases. "Enticement with sweetmeats" is no foundation for a quality encyclopedia.

If we want to make Wikipedia the best encyclopedia it can be, we should be looking to minimize lists, and be ruthless with spurious lists.

Ddawkins73 (talk) 15:18, 3 February 2009 (UTC)

First of all, everyone seems to have an opinion about what constitutes an "indiscriminate collection of information", but that section in WP:NOT is essentially a catch-all for things which might be verifiable but don't belong in Wikipedia, and don't fit in any other section of WP:NOT—and the only things which to which any sort of consensus has formed are those specifically listed under WP:NOT#IINFO. That part of policy was never intended to give a deletion rationale for anyone who thinks some "spurious" or "trivial" list or article makes Wikipedia an "indiscriminate collection of information". Second, your quotes from the overcategorization guideline are misplaced, as that guideline is specifically about Wikipedia categories, not about lists. A while back, someone tried to propose an "overlistification" guideline, but it failed miserably to gain consensus. Lists have a long history on Wikipedia, and many editors and readers find them highly informative, useful, and encyclopedic. DHowell (talk) 05:10, 4 February 2009 (UTC)
Thank you for commenting :) . No doubt lists do have a long history on Wikipedia, and I am not saying that all lists are bad, but highlighting some qualitative differences between a list and a well composed article. However, does a list of unusual fruit really help to make a great encyclopedia? Some things are interesting, or quirky, and people might like to read them, but are such things really in line with the core aim of wikipedia?
I'm contending that opinion might be modified concerning such lists. I think encompassing articles have a far greater contribution towards genuine knowledge. Silly lists may be popular, but as contributors to wikipedia, shouldn't we be thinking more what is meant by "great encyclopedia"?
Thanks for putting me right about the categories. I still think they might tell us something about our lists too.

Ddawkins73 (talk) 08:22, 4 February 2009 (UTC)

I think NOT is a good benchmark to disallow certain lists, but the other problem is that trying to delete it will just run into accusations of you "WP:ILIKEIT" or vice versa. Unfortunately, a (helpful) rubric for establishing "usefulness" of lists does not exist (and probably cannot, considering the use of "useful" in deletion and as poor excuses for defending articles in general. While I understand cats and lists can be synergistic, at some point I feel like running around like lists is just making directories when there are articles that could do a better job. I mean, if loosely associated people who have a biological trait and nothing else in common shouldn't have an article in one case, why not is this one still sitting around (aside from the gay cabal.) --Der Wohltemperierte Fuchs (talk) 22:43, 9 February 2009 (UTC)
Indiscriminate is a word which creates a very low bar. If there is some rational basis for discriminating between what is included and what is not, the list passes that test. I think that's the intent, and the proper intent. DGG (talk) 13:16, 18 April 2009 (UTC)

We're losing interesting encyclopaedic topics[edit]

I'm pretty sure that, in the current policy climate, if exploding whale didn't already exist as a FA it would get deleted, and probably speedily if it was attempted now. And that is a BAD thing, in case you were wondering. Mark Hurd (talk) 16:10, 29 April 2009 (UTC)