Wikipedia talk:Notability (fiction)/Archive 35

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New survey prep

I'd like to make a new survey to help us understand what individual parts or concepts of WP:FICT might have support, as an alternative to what has become a sort of "all or nothing" approach. My idea is to take each section of the proposal and allow people to comment on it or simply give a 1-5 type rating (like strongly agree, agree, don't care/neutral, disagree, strongly disagree). In addition to doing this for the current proposal, I'd like to do the same thing to a few past versions of the guideline/proposal. I don't want to over-complicate things, so I want to narrow it down to maybe the current version and three other versions. At User:Ned Scott/FICT I've pulled out a few that caught my eye as I trolled through the history, and I'm looking for help on narrowing down which ones to use for the survey, or even changing them to another or similar version. Any other thoughts or ideas are also welcome. -- Ned Scott 01:17, 17 June 2008 (UTC)

I think this is a mildly helpful approach. Another important thing we can find out: is this guideline controversial for what it says, or what it doesn't say? Randomran (talk) 02:23, 17 June 2008 (UTC)
That's a good point. I noticed comments in the RfC gave the impression that at least some editors were opposed because FICT lacked guidance in certain areas, or left some things too open. -- Ned Scott 06:34, 18 June 2008 (UTC)

I'll try to get this set up in the next day or two. Any suggestions would be more than welcome. -- Ned Scott 06:49, 22 June 2008 (UTC)

Just food for thought... a lot of this discussion has shifted towards WP:NOTE. Particularly, the discussion of Wikipedia_talk:Notability#List_of_Proposed_changes. Some of these aren't changes so much as clarifications. But I think it would be useful to get a full RFC on adjusting notability. Just for the sake of discussion, we should also propose getting rid of WP:NOTE, if only to prove that there is no consensus to do so. Once we've established the consensus at WP:NOTE, I think it will be obvious which parts of this proposed WP:FICT guideline should stay or go. So, my suggestion would be to do an RFC at WP:NOTE first. Randomran (talk) 16:26, 22 June 2008 (UTC)
No real reason to wait for that discussion. This is nothing more than helping us to find out where we stand with WP:FICT, with greater depth than the "all or nothing" reactions we've been getting. The more information we can gather about this, wether it be about FICT specifically, or about NOTE in general, the better. We could even do RfCs in both places. -- Ned Scott 06:23, 23 June 2008 (UTC)
Fair enough, but I think you'll find that the issue a lot of people have with WP:FICT is that's based on WP:NOTE at all. Randomran (talk) 06:51, 23 June 2008 (UTC)

I've been looking at that questionnaire they're doing about WP:RFA (the one with a notice on the watchlist), and I think a simplified version of that might be good. Rather than asking people "do you agree with this?" and pointing to something already written down, I think we should take the route of asking people to put it into their own words. -- Ned Scott 05:44, 26 June 2008 (UTC)

I'm having trouble finding the questionnaire you're talking about. I'd definitely like to take a look. Can you point me in the right direction? Randomran (talk) 14:37, 26 June 2008 (UTC)
Wikipedia:RfA Review/Question. Basically, let each user have a section or subpage, but with less questions. -- Ned Scott 06:55, 27 June 2008 (UTC)
Thanks! That's a pretty good idea. If you think it's more productive than some other RFC, then go for it. You should get some input from others on the questions, though. (I'd personally like to help out that way.) Randomran (talk) 12:51, 27 June 2008 (UTC)


Man in black has tagged this as historical today, but been reverted. While I think this proposal has failed, I would support a Historic tag if we could reach a compromise now and move on to a broad-based solution for article inclusion. I'd prefer that someone who was in support of this take the step to put up the tag. --Kevin Murray (talk) 13:54, 24 June 2008 (UTC)

Again I remind you that an RFC is in progress, and to be honest I would like to discuss the results and learn from them, rather jettisoning the discussions prematurely. In any case, reports about the recent demise of WP:FICT are greatly exagerated. Fiction is an important subject area, already covered by the guideline WP:WAF, so I think WP:FICT is here to stay. Even if we cannot agree on the current draft, we can discuss a new one. If you have a proposal, put it up for discussion, but burning our boats before the new craft has been launched is not constructive in my view. --Gavin Collins (talk) 14:05, 24 June 2008 (UTC)
The RfC has run its course. Two things make this a failure: (1) significant direct opposition and (2) failure to form consensus after a reasonable period of time. We've now dealyed the tagging for a week while seeking broader participation in determining the proper tag. That is the only issue remaining on the table. --Kevin Murray (talk) 14:37, 24 June 2008 (UTC)

I don't think this RFC is going to result in keeping this guideline, and I don't think clinging to its baggage is helping the discussion. Let's mark this historical, add a brief intro noting its historical role, and consider a new fiction notability guideline starting from base principles. In the meantime WP:N still protects the articles we can reference, leaves the ones we can't in the cold, and AFD keeps fumbling blindly as it always does. - A Man In Bl♟ck (conspire | past ops) 14:52, 24 June 2008 (UTC)

I think the point is that the RFC is still open, and we've still had comments come in over the last few weeks. I don't expect a revolutionary comment to come in the next week and a half (July 3), but marking this historical before that point will discourage users from adding useful comments for assessment (akin to how early poll results in 2000 on the East Coast discouraged voters in the West Coast). --MASEM 15:15, 24 June 2008 (UTC)

There's a few reasons this is still going on. First, this is a really substantial proposal that has a big impact on wikipedia, and will take more time to discuss, understand, and criticize than other proposals. Second, the discussion has moved up the ladder to WP:N (because a lot of the disagreement isn't over WP:FICT but whether WP:N is made of stone or thin air) and will be impacted by that discussion soon. Third is the RFC is about to happen, which could result in parts of this proposal gaining consensus, or at a bare minimum explaining why this proposal will never gain consensus and letting us learn from it for future proposals. Keep this proposal open so we can get more comments, and ride this process out. Maybe the peak of the discussion is behind us, but we can't say for sure, and we know there's still a benefit to seeing this discussion through. Randomran (talk) 15:32, 24 June 2008 (UTC)

I tend to agree with Randomran here on this one. We need to see what parts, if any, gain consensus, and once we've done that, see how to implement what we have learned for other proposals. I also think that sometime down the line we should push for this to become a guideline again. The reason for this is the RFC came too early, following the wake of the Episodes and characters cases, which still have a lot of negative stigma and emotional baggage attached to them. If this is to be dredged in the future, then hopefully this baggage will not influence the decision-making process. Sasuke9031 (talk) 21:55, 24 June 2008 (UTC)

After July 3rd, I have no problem marking this historical, but until then, please leave this proposed so that people can comment on the RFC without assuming the issue is moot. --MASEM 01:51, 28 June 2008 (UTC)

I beg to differ. The discussion is ongoing and has moved to WP:NOTE, and is progressing at a steady rate. It's a difficult debate, with a lot of issues to work out, but we'll get there. Absolute worst case, mark this as historical, and we'll have to put together a new proposal from scratch (which will borrow heavily from this one). Randomran (talk) 02:29, 28 June 2008 (UTC)
OK Masem, that's a very fair proposition, but please do the honorable thing and mark it historical yourself on the 4th, if the consensus hasn't changed. Have a great weekend! --Kevin Murray (talk) 02:31, 28 June 2008 (UTC)
Calm the freak down, Kevin. What the heck is it with you? You accomplish nothing by this tagging, and only make yourself look like a jerk. We still have people working on this, but discussion is spread out, and some of us have full time jobs. I still want to attempt another survey, but doing so with a half-baked setup is a bad idea, and I'm watching how things are going on WT:N. Stop being so obsessed about this and let other editors do their jobs. -- Ned Scott 05:52, 28 June 2008 (UTC)
Civil? And who is obsessed about this? --Kevin Murray (talk) 07:16, 28 June 2008 (UTC)

Wait, so what's going on here?

I check in here every few weeks or so to see how this whole failed rewrite thing is going, and now I come to see that it's ended. Has it ended? From I can gather no consensus has been reached(or rather, the five or so non-inclusionists here have opinions that outweigh everyone else's) so the whole thing is just being marked as Historical, gone, irrelevent, etc? Really? That's how it ends? Whereto from here? What happens to the articles that this guideline affects? - (talk) 03:02, 28 June 2008 (UTC)

In a week it will be likely marked historical; however, you are urged to put into at WT:NOTE where discussion of how notability and its subguidelines interact, which will set the stage for a rewrite here. During that time, fictional element articles will fall under WP:NOTE guidelines. --MASEM 03:08, 28 June 2008 (UTC)
I fully realize that this is a sensitive subject that requires much discussion, but that talk page is 30,000 words and 61 pages of Times New Roman 12 and from what I've skimmed over it just looks like a complete repeat of the discussions that've gone on here for the last year or so. I'd like to put in my two cents, but like 99% of the people using Wikipedia that's just too much to think or care about. You guys need to realize that this isn't beauracracy, it's a website. Draft something, put it into effect and see if there are more complaints and controversy than before. If yes, try something else.- (talk) 03:25, 28 June 2008 (UTC)
That's what we're trying to do (draft, action, review, repeat), but some people want to force the issue. -- Ned Scott 05:55, 28 June 2008 (UTC)
Circle jerk? --Kevin Murray (talk) 07:18, 28 June 2008 (UTC)
What do we do when there is no consensus? We either mark this as failed/historical/whatever and/or we do some sort of vote. Unfortunately, I don't think we can do it here, so let's do a vote at NOTE. The failure here was (roughly) 25% NOTE cannot be loosened, 50% NOTE can be loosened with regards to fiction with lists, and 25% it needs to be loosened more than just with lists. Sub-NOTE guidelines may have consensus to loosen NOTE, but we need to get that decided at NOTE before we can decide the specifics at the various sub-guides. It sounds like there's some sort of deadline before we take this to the next level, so we're on track. Let's let it expire and then do a watchlist vote. - Peregrine Fisher (talk) (contribs) 07:58, 28 June 2008 (UTC)
When people are still working on the page we don't need to jump to tag it. I would understand if this was collecting dust, and we needed to clean up Category:Wikipedia proposals, but we're far from that. FICT is just one of many important tasks on some editor's plates (mine included), and not even giving us even a month to make a new proposal is quite disruptive (intentional or not).
What I want to avoid is a situation where if it gets tagged as historical, and when we finally are ready for another proposal, we get blasted with this major misconception that anything related to WP:FICT (even if the proposal differs greatly from the last) is rejected (rather than just that older version). -- Ned Scott 06:54, 29 June 2008 (UTC)
  • I agree with Ned - fiction is too important an area to not have a guideline. After Masem putting in so much effort to improve WP:FICT and then saying that he wants to kill it seems to me to be a bad case of sour grapes. --Gavin Collins (talk) 08:46, 30 June 2008 (UTC)
  • I never said I wanted to kill it. However, since on Thursday the 3rd (after the RFC closes) this will be marked as historical since there are strong disputers on both sides of where this fell, the notability of fictional elements will fall to the GNG until FICT can be rewritten, which is presently awaiting what happens in NOTE. I'm all for a rewrite, but the practical matter is that there is no FICT guideline right now beyond what most will use as the status quo. --MASEM 11:47, 30 June 2008 (UTC)

I created a monster!

Twelve months later and this is still raging...I guess someone had to bring it into the light. — Deckiller 16:07, 1 July 2008 (UTC)

What do you mean? How did this all start? - Peregrine Fisher (talk) (contribs) 07:02, 2 July 2008 (UTC)
With my rewrite more than 13 months ago. Then a few people wanted to basically rewrite and rehash what it already said for some strange reason; uncompromising parties set up camp, and thus the slippery slope began. It was a necessary issue, because the old version was more inclusionist than most of the extreme inclusionists in this RfC. The problem is that very few people who have set up camp in this debate know how to compromise in this medium. Nobody can win. You HAVE to meet in the middle. My first rewrite, while not perfect, had the closest thing to a compromise as was possible at the's really unfortunate that such a powerful word and concept eludes most of these Wikipedians. A lack of compromise on the site, along with questionable drive-by analyzes of featured articles and/or wikiprojects, has led to my (hopefully temportary) distaste for it. — Deckiller 07:42, 2 July 2008 (UTC)
Yeah, it's not scaling well. I think some form of Wikipedia:Governance reform will end up being adopted. Until then, let's argue! ;-) - Peregrine Fisher (talk) (contribs) 00:09, 3 July 2008 (UTC)

Why inclusion matters

It occurs to me that, in several years of fighting for a more inclusionist stance on fictional topics, I've never been thoroughly explicit about why I care.

I am a PhD student in English focusing on popular culture. I have written and taught on comics, video games, television, films, and all manner of obscurities. I am, in this area, not just an editor of Wikipedia. I am a serious user of it. I routinely use Wikipedia to look up and check basic facts about fictional subjects - what episodes a minor character appeared in, who the creator of an obscure 70s DC comics villain was, what the plot of a random episode of something is. I use Wikipedia for background information to decide if something is worth looking into in more detail.

When an area that has been thoroughly worked on has not been decimated by deletion and notability police, it is an invaluable resource that often has not been duplicated elsewhere. When articles are deleted, the information and work that went into them are gone, and I cannot get at them.

Plot summaries, cast lists, biographies of fictional people, etc - these things are not "fancruft." They are information that I use for serious scholarly research. Regularly and routinely. When they are deleted, my work becomes harder. When they are present, I can save hours of searching for minor details.

I am all for adding more in-universe material, and cutting summaries and the like to manageable lengths. I do not advocate scene by scene or chapter by chapter analyses. But on the other hand, it's tremendously useful to be able to get a general plot of a television series from the first episode up to the present. Useful. To real research.

When the information is easily verifiable (as in-universe information almost always is), the purpose of a notability guideline is to restrict Wikipedia to useful information. The "multiple independent sources" rule has, in the past, been a somewhat effective way of handling this. But we must not forget that the point of a notability guideline is to make sure that Wikipedia is limited to only useful and important subjects.

Plot summaries, episode descriptions, minor characters, etc are useful. They are important. To real, peer-reviewed research. We are not talking here about webcomics that end after three weeks, or about obscure garage bands. In most of these cases we are talking about television shows with audiences in the millions. People study these things. They are legitimate objects of academic research. And Wikipedia's coverage of them helps. It is an area where Wikipedia directly serves the public good.

Please stop deleting this stuff. Thanks. Phil Sandifer (talk) 20:20, 28 June 2008 (UTC)

I would suggest providing your input at WT:NOTE, as there are several there that are very much opposed to this stuff, even given the importance you suggest to it. The current discussion there is how else can we have third-party verification without necessarily being the GNG - in other words, how subject-specific guidelines can be crafted (with FICT a heavy emphasis). --MASEM 20:53, 28 June 2008 (UTC)
One of the most thoughtful and brilliant posts I have seen in a while and I strongly agree with Masem that you should add your comments to the heavily disputed general notability guideline as well. I am a doctoral candidate in history and a small section leader. As an educator and as someone who studies and writes about encyclopedic traditions, the concept of a handful of editors focusing on removing content and articles that they declare "non-notable", and yet thousands of editors work on and therefore believe relevant and millions come to Wikipedia to read runs against the spirit of academia and to be honest reasonability. Sincerely, --Le Grand Roi des CitrouillesTally-ho! 21:29, 28 June 2008 (UTC)

I'm glad that you've found a use for indiscriminately included info, but I wonder if you wouldn't be better served using this argument to rally people to contribute to a tool better suited to what you're doing, rather than shoehorning it into this project. You're speaking as a consumer of these articles. I'm speaking as an editor. Please, go do your peer-reviewed research so we have some third-party sources as a rudder to guide these articles.

You talk about plot summaries being useful, but wouldn't you be better served by more detailed plot summaries? By a project that summarizes in detail every episode, every issue, every movie scene-by-scene? By a project that deals with every fictional object in detail, as though they were real? Listing every fictional character's appearances, when and where, cameos included, with detailed fan notes on the conflicts and in-jokes?

When people try to cram that project into this project, we run into problems not only with WP:WAF and WP:N, not only with WP:NOT#PLOT and WP:NOT#IINFO, but problems with interpretation, with speculation, and with due weight and NPOV. How do you resolve disputes when the only source on the subject is a single fictional work that people are interpreting differently? What's indiscriminate detail when we throw the doors open to all detail? Shouldn't we be including the work whole at that point, so that nothing is lost in summary? At what point is explicit, panel-by-panel or frame-by-frame commentary, treading upon the toes of copyright holders (and this has been a problem at WP:COMIC)?

Wikipedia's policies only serve to make it an ill fit for what you want. Wikipedia cannot, will not, should not be the one-size-fits-all indiscriminate compendium of information. What you want is an entirely different project, one which is a cross-referenced guide to fictional universes, with original research in the form of commentary and cross-referencing embraced, not barely tolerated if at all. I would suggest finding it or creating it, because this isn't it. - A Man In Bl♟ck (conspire | past ops) 23:38, 28 June 2008 (UTC)

While a minority of editors may have a limited view of what Wikipedia is or should be, the thousands who create, work on, argue to keep, and the millions who come here for fictional information believe otherwise, which is why Wikipedia is indeed the ultimate compendium of encyclopedic and almanacic knowledge. More time needs to be spent referencing the articles in question than just outright removing them. Sources are usually out there. Sincerely, --Le Grand Roi des CitrouillesTally-ho! 00:26, 29 June 2008 (UTC)
A scene by scene plot summary wouldn't be useful because there's a horizon, and it comes pretty early on, where a secondary source is inadequate for the level of detail needed. If I need detail on a specific panel of a specific comic then I'm working on a level of specificity that needs a primary source. And similarly, yes - obviously we're not going to violate copyright. But it's an utter fabrication to treat there as being a slippery slope here, and an even cursory perusal of my article space contributions in this area will demonstrate that I'm not advocating for one. I've been well in favor of cutting back over long plot summaries, leading with more out-of-universe information, and better interfacing (through things like Template:FreeContentMeta) with free content resources that provide other sorts of information.
I mean, do you think I'm citing Wikipedia in papers? Of course I'm not. I'm using Wikipedia as it is responsible for a researcher to use it, or any other encyclopedia - for background research. So, for instance, when I'm interested in designing a course on American visions of the future and technology, I think "Oh, gee, it sure would be a good idea to put a Tom Swift book in the syllabus. I wonder which ones I should look at." What I need here is one or two paragraphs outlining the general plot of them so I can figure out which ones I want to read. And I go to Tom Swift, Jr. and there are no articles on individual books. Now that may be because nobody has written them. The point stands - summaries would be useful. A lot more useful than tracking down 33 out of print books and reading them all.
Or I read Greg Rucka's comic series Queen & Country, and I learn that it's heavily inspired by The Sandbaggers. I find Queen & Country interesting, and I want to follow up on this thread to see if there's something interesting to do with this line of spy fiction. I don't even have a paper in mind here - I'm just trying to learn more about something that has piqued my interest. I'd love to get a feel for what a typical episode is like. Unfortunately, the articles that were written on specific episodes were all redirected back to the main article, so that information is gone. I guess in order to even find out if this would be interesting to me I have to buy the DVD sets at $7.14 per episode.
I can give hundreds of examples like this - cases where what I need is a general overview of information. Stuff that exists for some areas - we have articles on all of the companions in Doctor Who, for instance, if I wanted to get an idea of how companion departures are handled in the show. That's useful. But there's been a huge fight over character articles for Gilmore Girls, so if I wanted to get an overview of Rory's breakups with her boyfriends over the shows, well, there I'm out of luck.
I'm finishing off a paper on superheroes. I needed to do a quick check on a point about Iron Man - I couldn't remember if his origin had originally been in Vietnam or Korea, whether it had been explicitly retconned in the comics, and at what point in the comics the whole "his suit keeps him alive" thing was discarded. All pretty big points in the character's fictional life - nothing like "in what issues does he kiss Pepper Potts" or anything. These are major beats in the overall narrative. And, sure, I could read hundreds of comics to get the information I need for a one sentence throwaway. But that would take days and thousands of dollars to acquire the comics.
This isn't indiscriminate information. It's basic background on things with audiences in the millions. It's the sort of information that people are supposed to use encyclopedias for - little bits of background and facts necessary to fill in gaps and crunch down huge amounts of information so that one can figure out how best to spend one's time, or look up odds and ends basic facts.
I'm asking that Wikipedia be able to be used for works of fiction the same way it is for British history, or pharmacology, or American politics. I'm asking that it be usable as a basic background research for key pieces of information. I'm asking that verifiable, basic information in my field not be cut out because people think it's "fancruft." I'm particularly asking that useful, accurate information not just be deleted irrevocably so that anyone looking to add it to this or another project have to start from scratch and duplicate existing work.
But mostly, I'm just asking to be able to use the encyclopedia for my field as much as it can be used for other fields of research. I'm asking that fictional topics have articles on their major aspects that cover the pertinent background information in roughly the same detail as any other area. I'm asking that the encyclopedia be, you know, encyclopedic in its coverage. Which is to say complete and thorough.
That doesn't mean detailed fan notes, or articles on every object that ever gets mentioned in a television show. It doesn't mean scene by scene description. It doesn't mean copyright violations, or tons of detail on every appearance of a character across seven seasons of a television show (although an unannotated list wouldn't, to my mind, be a problem for characters for which it's not obvious. I don't need to be told that Superman is in every issue of Action Comics, but I'd have no problem with an article listing all the times he's had substantive appearances in comics he wasn't the star of...). And, I mean, I certainly don't want things written as though the objects or characters were real. Out of universe information is great. I love out of universe information. I think every single article on fictional subjects should have more of it.
But on the other hand, I'm willing to bet you that if you got twenty pop culture scholars together and asked them what a useful Wikipedia article on a fictional character would contain, you'd get a list that's pretty consistent from any of them who considered Wikipedia a useful resource. And that list would consist of verifiable information that can be presented non-speculatively and without serious NPOV issues.
We are capable, in hundreds of fields, of providing information that is thorough and useful for general research. Why is fiction so hard for us to agree to do this for? Phil Sandifer (talk) 01:27, 29 June 2008 (UTC)
Are you arguing for what we do now, to preserve that balance and not push further to exclusion, or to expand plot summaries to include summary of every episode, every issue, every book, every fictional work? I'm with you on the former, but the latter is beyond our scope and should remain so because Wikipedia's policies and format are not compatible with that goal. If you want to get a feel for what a single episode of a show is like, many other projects have you covered. Same for comics- A Man In Bl♟ck (conspire | past ops) 01:40, 29 June 2008 (UTC)
I see notability, or at least the cumulative efforts of notability and whatever other guideline we consider for inclusion, to be a necessity to maintaining a quality encyclopedia. Without any restrictions on what we cover in fiction, we get the situation we are in now - a lot of articles that contain tons of in-universe information written for fans by fans, with lots of speculation or original theories. This is not to say we can't cover these, but our coverage needs to be objective to allow for the coverage that Phil is looking for but without making it impossible to maintain. There are some that maintain that the only objective way is through third-party or secondary sources, but I do feel there's a route that is not so reliant on those for fiction that still maintains high quality throughout without failing to cover the area in sufficient depth for an encyclopedia. --MASEM 02:08, 29 June 2008 (UTC)
Book and episode sounds good - an article with the basics on every episode of every national television show would be useful. Every issue of a comic would be excessive. There's a middle ground to be reached there - on the level of storyline for most comics, which ends up not being any more onerous than a long-running television show. But there's also a strong degree to which it is worth treating comics differently - simply put, they tend to have smaller audiences and a much, much higher rate of total irrelevancy in a given story (due largely to a much more convoluted notion of continuity than you have in, say, Star Trek). Superhero comics, at least, tend to rely on a sort of active and deliberate sort of amnesia and forgetting - stories are very often ignored, never collected in trade paperbacks, etc. But this is a pretty specific discussion that is probably more suited to the comics WikiProject. Suffice it to say that "every issue" is ridiculous by any standard, but that "no detailed summaries of comics" is also sub-optimal.
But yes - I think that there are large areas of fiction where we are badly undercovered, and need expansion. I think, as a general rule, plot summaries of major installments of something, articles on characters with significant numbers of appearances that contain a biography with major turning points in the character's history and an index of appearances. In all cases they should be thorough but not obsessive - just like our articles on everything else - sufficient to provide a general overview of the subject.
This amounts to, in practice, dramatically slowing down the deletions and engaging in a lot of expansion, and remembering that articles are works in progress, and that they often spend a while being crappy on their way to being good. Phil Sandifer (talk) 02:34, 29 June 2008 (UTC)
an article with the basics on every episode of every national television show would be useful. Every issue of a comic would be excessive.
Why? What's your standard? Both are national, sometimes international, episodic works with a broad audience.
major turning points in the character's history and an index of appearances
What's a major turning point? What's an appearance worth mentioning (was that a cameo or a similar character? Was that an allusion to this character? Etc.)
When we stop basing articles on reliable third-party sources, how do we answer any of these questions? - A Man In Bl♟ck (conspire | past ops) 02:53, 29 June 2008 (UTC)
I largely explained the issue with comics. As I said, every storyline (which is usually a plot spanning 4-12 issues) wouldn't be out of line - issue just ends up being a bit silly, scale-wise. Secondarily, there's the issue of re-use - television series go through syndication and DVD release - most comics don't get collected as trades, and are more ephemeral. It's a distinct difference. But again, this is probably picking nits.
As for major turning points, this is, for the most part, easily done without novel interpretation of the texts. Again, I think we can here appeal to a practical common sense - the fact of the matter is, if you told people to write a history of, say, Iron Man that contained the major turning points, people would settle on a consistent form. The problem has been that we've never managed to settle on a consensus for what we should do, and so we get excess juxtaposed with efforts to delete. But if you look at a responsible WikiProject like Doctor Who you get good episode and fictional character articles. Which leads me to believe that with responsible leadership it works. Much like any other area. As for an appearance worth mentioning, again, I think this is something that practical consensus would work on, and is almost entirely an issue for comics articles - film and television are pretty easy, since they depend on the presence of actors in a way that is non-problematic for just about every case I can think of. Again, these lists hardly need to be annotated - in fact, it would largely be counter-productive. A division between major appearance and cameo could be done along sensible guidelines in most areas, and would solve this problem neatly.
I mean, I'm just not seeing where the difficulty is here. Phil Sandifer (talk) 03:18, 29 June 2008 (UTC)

I'm not asking for the answers to those questions. I'm asking for how we can write articles once we abandon the principle of only writing articles based on reliable, third-party sources. Handwaving this problem with "sensible guidelines" doesn't work.

You're suggesting we do it based on a consensus of who's present; I'm telling you from experience that that just doesn't work. Ask WP:COMIC, ask WP:CVG, ask WP:POKE (which is basically a model of the failure of a "consensus of the present" model); right now, from long and hard and painful experience the "sensible guidelines" of these projects for including info in articles or including articles are either WP:N, WP:SOURCES, or derived from same.

You mention the Dr. Who project; they're benefitting from the fact that nearly every episode and licensed work and character and setting is the subject of a great deal of commentary, on conception and design and critical reaction. This is the exception and not the rule. They are not worried about notability because it can be safely assumed.

We're writing original guides to these works, so we're going to run into all the usual issues of original research. Original-research-by-committee isn't significantly better than original-research-by-unpublishable-nut, it's just less obvious. - A Man In Bl♟ck (conspire | past ops) 03:42, 29 June 2008 (UTC)

It's very misleading to suggest that the Doctor Who WikiProject built itself out of secondary sources. The fictional biography sections for Ace (Doctor Who) are great as is, but those summaries don't come from secondary sources - they come from sensible judgments about what the major parts of a topic are. (Indeed, I'm 99% certain no good overview other than us exists for the Virgin New Adventures section, which is impeccable none the less, and does a fantastic job of catching the major moments, save perhaps a needed line about Lucifer Rising.) Which are the decisions we make in every area - we don't import our overall organization of an article from a secondary source. I mean, this is an unavoidable fact - we are writing encyclopedia articles, routinely, on topics that nobody has ever written an encyclopedia article on. The question of how that article should be organized and what information should be presented is always something we have to put together ourselves.
I mean, seriously, that's the barrier? What events in a fictional character's life or an episode summary are worthy of inclusion? Come on - we're perfectly capable of distilling a massive amount of available information on George Washington down to a biography. There's plenty of stuff verifiable through multiple independent sources that we leave out. Same for any of our articles. There's not some great big unique intractable problem with figuring out article structure for fictional subjects. The only difference is we're usually distilling and summarizing primary sources - fictional texts - instead of secondary ones. But in terms of the sort of thought and research needed, there's just not that much difference in describing the life of Fox Mulder based on episodes of the X-files and in describing the life of John Adams based on the McCullough book. The same strategies of summary, evaluation of major points, etc are applied by editors using either source. Phil Sandifer (talk) 03:59, 29 June 2008 (UTC)
You mention Ace (Doctor Who); every second paragraph has a mention about the writers' intent, plans for stories that weren't published, and other factual claims about the real world. All of these claims obviously come from third-party commentary (unless they're false, I suppose); they just haven't been sourced yet. That article passes WP:N with flying colors. It's just not done yet.
With George Washington, we're not constructing a summary from a narrative of every single moment of his life. We're constructing a summary based on other summaries of his life. We have guidance on what is worthy of mention and what is not already. We are emulating that work.
You evaded my question again. What are you going to tell the projects that have come to rely on WP:N and WP:SOURCES to overcome the fact that enthusiastic fans will overwhelm any summary with excess detail? These projects have arrived at this standard the hard way; what do you propose they use instead? - A Man In Bl♟ck (conspire | past ops) 04:18, 29 June 2008 (UTC)
The secondary sources are not used in the Ace article as you suggest - the character history, for instance, has no allusions to out of universe motivation until its last paragraph, and the New Adventures section has a lone sentence that is about out of universe motivation, which provides no sense that the source it came from was used to figure out what the major beats of Ace's life were. Again, I am pretty sure no published overview of the Virgin era exists, so this is not surprising.
As for excessive detail, this doesn't seem to me a fundamental problem with the topics, it seems to be a problem with the sorts of editors the topics attract. Some topics attract problematic editors. We do not generally abandon our encyclopedic mission to deal with them. I am all for a content guideline for fictional articles - one that includes a phrase along the lines of "summaries should give a general overview of major plot points, and not go into excessive detail. For examples of good summaries, see" and then link to some specific diffs of articles with well-written summaries. Phil Sandifer (talk) 05:15, 29 June 2008 (UTC)
The article subject itself can be excessively granular. There's no difference between "Do we cover the alternate future version of Sonic the Hedgehog from one issue of the licensed comic in this article?" and "Should we have an article on the alternate future Sonic the Hedgehog from one issue of the licensed comic?" They're the same dispute, the same principle, and the same issues; the only difference is whether we're on a talk page or at AFD.
What guide do we use for a "reasonable" level of detail, with no guidance from reliable third-party sources?
Moreover, that's just one kind of dispute this sort of article attracts. Again, when the entirety of Wikipedia's content dispute resolution is built around consulting reliable third-party sources, how do we resolve the inevitable content disputes without them?
I fear I'm repeating myself, so I'm going to stop asking the same questions, since I'm reasonably sure that there aren't answers. We cannot write articles, we cannot resolve disputes, we cannot accomplish anything of substance on subjects about which reliable third-party sources have not yet seen fit to comment. Saying that original synthesis of fictional works in the form of fiction guides is useful doesn't negate the fact that it's original research, with all the problems that entails. - A Man In Bl♟ck (conspire | past ops) 05:40, 29 June 2008 (UTC)
I've seen good (not Good) articles written without secondary sources, so it can be done. I've also seen disputes resolved without secondary sources. Frequently the disputes involve OR that doesn't simply describe but draws conclusions. People go to the talk page and the OR is removed. I guess whether we can accomplish anything of substance depends on your viewpoint of what we're discussing. It sounds like you may be agreeing with Gavin that one cannot summarize a work of fiction without committing OR. If that is your opinion, then there may not be any answers, other than I think that logically leads to the conclusion that all summaries are OR, secondary or primary. - Peregrine Fisher (talk) (contribs) 05:51, 29 June 2008 (UTC)
No, I'm saying that one cannot summarize parts of a work of fiction without writing OR unless one has sources. The line I'm drawing is between a simple summary largely reflecting the work in form, and breaking that summary up into guides to sections or objects or characters. Writing a summary is different from choosing what to summarize: we need sources for the latter, not the former. - A Man In Bl♟ck (conspire | past ops) 06:13, 29 June 2008 (UTC)
What? Writing a summary is choosing what to summarize. That's the whole point of summarizing - you take a lot of information, and boil it down to what's important. Summarizing "what are the important things to the plot in The Curse of Fenric" and "what are the important things to Ace as a developing character in The Curse of Fenric" are not substantially different problems - they both involve looking at a text and figuring out which bits matter to a particular topic. Which, notably, is the exact same problem we face in the question "what are the important things to the life of John Adams in the McCullough book?" It's not helpful or sensible to treat these three questions as fundamentally different. They're not. They require exactly the same sorts of judgments. If we can do one adequately, we can do them all. Phil Sandifer (talk) 06:21, 29 June 2008 (UTC)
My point is that the problems are indistinguishable from the problems we always have. What do we do with a piece of information that appears in one book about John Adams? What do we do with a piece of information that appears in three books about John Adams? It's not a problem of fictional subjects, it's a problem of distilling information into a summary, and it's endemic to the whole project. Distilling thousands of pages of information into a single article requires judgment calls. There's no magic map that does it for us. And the problem of figuring out which bits of the McCullough book on John Adams to include are the exact same problems we have with Sonic. For instance, I just pulled up a random page of the McCullough book on Amazon. It notes that in 1777, John Adams returned to France, and brought John Thaxter as his private secretary and tutor for his two sons. Should this information be included? Should John Thaxter, who appears on numerous pages in the book, get an article? He clearly appears in other books as well: [1]. Mostly on John Adams. So he should be in the article? What about the hundreds of other people I could perform the exact same search on? here's no answer in the source for this. McCullough was not thoughtful enough to put passages he thinks relevant for the Wikipedia article in italics. We have to make these decisions by ourselves.
If John Adams does not keep you up at night fretting about how to select what to cover and how to cover it without violating NOR, you need not worry more about Sonic the Hedgehog. The idea that fictional articles are abnormally difficult to distill down to the major points is simply not true. The decision of how to focus on important details and ignore fluff is one that has to be made in every article. Explain to me why fiction is any harder than John Adams. Because without that, there's no way to answer your question. We don't just consult third party sources to figure out the importance of John Thaxter to John Adams. That's not how the decision is made. And so nothing "replaces" third party sources. You can't replace what's not there. The real question is how did we decide not to include John Thaxter in John Adams. Because whatever we actually did to figure out that we shouldn't include that bit of the biographies is probably usable to figure out what to do about Sonic as well.
I suggest that, in fact, it was done with common sense. Because nobody who is not a complete idiot would actually suggest that John Thaxter is a major aspect of John Adams's life that should be covered. Anyone who insisted that we should actually have a "Relationship with John Thacker" section of the article would rightly be told by every regular editor of John Adams that they are being completely ridiculous, and that they should stop wasting everybody's time.
Why on Earth is this reasoning, which is used in almost every article on Wikipedia, somehow inadequate to the task of articles about fiction? Phil Sandifer (talk) 06:18, 29 June 2008 (UTC)

We used the other sources on the subject to guide us. The McCullough book on John Adams isn't the sole source. I can't speak to John Adams from any personal experience, but if the relationship with Thaxter were significant, we could use the sources that saw fit to discuss this relationship in detail to write an article section or an article on that relationship. Since such sources don't exist (as you said, it's mentioned only in passing), we don't cover that relationship.

We don't have sources covering it in detail, so we don't cover it in detail. Why on Earth is this reasoning, which is used in almost every article on Wikipedia, somehow inadequate to the task of articles about fiction? - A Man In Bl♟ck (conspire | past ops) 06:32, 29 June 2008 (UTC)

But we do have sources! My whole point was that Thaxter is not a blip that appears on one page of one book. There are dozens of books on Amazon related to John Adams that mention John Thaxter. Dozens. So yes, we have sources that cover John Thaxter in detail. He's mentioned widely and routinely. There's surely more than enough information across the dozen or so books to write "John Thaxter and John Adams" as a section in John Adams. And yet we don't. Nor, from what I can tell, should we. So it's not at all accurate to say that the logic we use for exclusion of an aspect of coverage is "we don't have sources covering it in detail." That logic is not meaningfully in use in a large number of decisions. We are quite capable - indeed, we must be capable - of reaching a decision on content without that guide. And we generally do it well. Phil Sandifer (talk) 06:42, 29 June 2008 (UTC)
You're conflating breadth of references to depth of references. There are dozens of books that mention John Thaxter in passing; are people writing books about this relationship, though, or is it just a passing detail, a person Adams corresponded and interacted with? I'm guessing the latter, from what you're saying.
It's a detail, a part of a larger whole. We deal with it at a level of detail in proportion to its significance to the whole (in this case not at all), just as WP:N guides us to deal with characters and episodes and issues and settings at a lesser level of detail in articles on the works to which they belong and not as subjects unto themselves unless sources deal with them as subjects unto themselves.
A greater level of detail than the sources support would be helpful to you. That's nice, but that same argument would hold for List of people John Adams interacted with (which I assume we all agree would be silly) for people who want to study the life of Adams in depth. Such a list would likely be better referenced and better written than List of Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog episodes has any hope of being. It would also be indiscriminate info; a level of detail that does not reflect the sources on the subject. - A Man In Bl♟ck (conspire | past ops) 07:08, 29 June 2008 (UTC)
The issue, then, is that we look at the biographies of John Adams and we note that Thaxter is not an important enough part of them. This isn't a matter of multiple sources, though - it's a matter of "here is the thing we are summarizing, and these are the parts that appear important." Which is, as you note, comparable to the problem posed by summarizing the various events in the life of Ace from Doctor Who -someone who clearly is dealt with in great detail by numerous episodes and novels. Which details merit inclusion, and which ones don't? That she was a pawn of Fenric in The Curse of Fenric is clearly more significant than the fact that she doesn't like clowns, as mentioned in The Greatest Show in the Galaxy. My point is that the way we determine that John Adams going to France is important, but John Thaxter isn't is, in fact, the exact same process of summary we use when we figure out what events in a fictional character's life are important. In both cases we take an extended narrative (a biography for Adams, a series of episodes for Ace) and condense it down to the essentials.
I fail to see the comparison between List of people John Adams interacted with and List of Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog episodes. The former seems like an impossible to complete list that would necessarily contain unverifiable elements. The latter appears to be fixed at 65 elements for good, and to have no elements that are not readily verifiable. There does not seem to me to be anything indiscriminate about the latter list. Phil Sandifer (talk) 14:41, 29 June 2008 (UTC)
  • Agreed, both in general (fiction is a valid thing for an encyclopedia to cover in detail) and specific (Sonic). Hobit (talk) 16:28, 29 June 2008 (UTC)
We're both repeating ourselves, convincing no participants and making no significant revelations about each others' viewpoints. At this point the case for both is laid out clearly, and further discussion isn't going anywhere. - A Man In Bl♟ck (conspire | past ops) 22:15, 29 June 2008 (UTC)
You're joking, right? You really don't see how a contained list of 65 items that is never, ever going to expand is not "indiscriminate?" What on Earth do you think "indiscriminate" means? Phil Sandifer (talk) 22:41, 29 June 2008 (UTC)
Arguing about hypothetical illustrative examples serves no one. - A Man In Bl♟ck (conspire | past ops) 03:42, 30 June 2008 (UTC)
going back a bit: By my standards for biographies of historical figures, Thaxter should get an article of his own here--I assume the well-known book you mention refers to the proper documentation for his life, and if not other more scholarly bios of Adams surely will. I see by Google books he;s mentioned in both other bios of Adams, and even in fiction about Adams, and makes multiple appearances in the correspondence of both John and Abigail Adams. He was additionally tutor to John Quincy Adams -- and if the article on John Adams is expanded to the size worthy of his importance, the names of his successive private secretaries would be relevant content there too, and certainly the article on JQ Adams should include him. Good example of how in history as well as fiction things are interrelated, and an encyclopedia should include the relationships. We can't in any event judge by what is already in a Wikipedia article, but by what should be. Many articles on works of fiction are inadequate and incompetent. They discuss the frame-by-frame details of the plot and omit everything else. Our coverage of other elements, real world certainly, but fictional aspects too, needs to be expanded. If we could stop trying to defend content against those who want to minimize coverage, we would have more time to improve the existing articles, and write the others that are needed. DGG (talk) 01:41, 30 June 2008 (UTC)
What, and miss all this fun? Ford MF (talk) 01:46, 30 June 2008 (UTC)
No one makes you fight this battle, DGG. If people would approach this in the proper order, by:
  1. Finding a group of independent, third-party sources on a topic
  2. Reviewing the information inside of those sources
  3. Writing a summary of the information in those sources
then this whole argument would go away overnight. The only reason we are here is that people are writing articles and then hoping sourcing comes along some day.
Kww (talk) 03:52, 30 June 2008 (UTC)
You make it sound like the solution to our problem is to delete 99% of our articles. The entire wiki is based on hoping sources come along someday, not just the fiction part. Try random article a few times. - Peregrine Fisher (talk) (contribs) 04:14, 30 June 2008 (UTC)
I disagree. I do not believe that Wiki is based on the idea that "one day a source will come along". Otherwise, that hope is in direct contradiction of WP:V.  BIGNOLE  (Contact me) 04:58, 30 June 2008 (UTC)
For WP:V, we don't need to wait for a source to come along since the definitive source is usually referenced from the outset: the work of fiction along with its accompanying material: foreword, appendices, footnotes, credits, etc. Colonel Warden (talk) 06:00, 30 June 2008 (UTC)
Yeah, WP:V really isn't an issue here. The request for multiple sources is a notability concept, not a verifiability one. -- Ned Scott 06:55, 30 June 2008 (UTC)
Actually, what I, at least, am trying to dispute is the idea that "a group of independent, third-party sources" are necessary on the episode and character level. These are just elements of larger fictional works for the most part. The only issue is that it is ridiculously unwieldy to summarize 109 hours of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in a single article. Accordingly, we break down to episode articles, which are best understood as sub-articles of the main Buffy the Vampire Slayer article. Put another way, we all seem to agree that an overview of characters and a plot summary is a must for a fictional work. How exactly do you propose to summarize fictional works that have total runtimes of 12+ hours? Phil Sandifer (talk) 06:16, 30 June 2008 (UTC)
I completely agree that we shouldn't have to require multiple 3rd party sources for every element. This goes back to the idea of dependent notability, which I really liked. I don't agree that we need full episode articles to give a reasonable summary, unless the additional summary is assisting some real world information/context. -- Ned Scott 06:53, 30 June 2008 (UTC)
It seems to me that there is an optimal amount of in universe information, and there is an optimal number of pages with links for a fictional topic. It isn't effected by the addition of out of universe information, other than deciding the new optimal way to organize all the information. The correct level of detail for an episode's plot isn't effected by OOU info, and an episode page also makes an excellent way to organize OOU info on the episode. In universe and OOU info assist each other, it's not a one way street. - Peregrine Fisher (talk) (contribs) 07:07, 30 June 2008 (UTC)
It could effect the level of detail we might need to cover. What I'm saying is that I could see real world information being used to justify details that we normally wouldn't consider necessary for a general overview. On WT:N Phil has expanded on his comments, and I think I understand him better. He's pretty much saying the same thing I believe, that we don't need a blow-by-blow summary, but we definitely need more than a few paragraphs for a show that's been around for a while. I could even see a paragraph or two per episode for a show, with or without additional real world information. -- Ned Scott 08:29, 30 June 2008 (UTC)
"How exactly should we summarize fictional works that have total runtimes of 12+ hours?". By being guided by how third party sources summarise these works, regardless of the subject. Or are we proposing exceptions to WP:NOR? Summarising material from proper (secondary) sources should never be "ridiculously unwieldy". Trying to draw arbitrary limits on reasonable original research is what will be unweildy. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 09:02, 30 June 2008 (UTC)
To pose a question: What is the difference with respect to OR between preparing a WP article on a, say, a historical figure with 100+ references, and preparing an article on a major fictional character across 100+ shows, citing those works as necessary?
The difference comes when you count independent secondary sources.

The primary sources are valuable for verifying content, but it is the independent secondary sources that demonstrate notability and provide the limits for what should be covered. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 04:12, 1 July 2008 (UTC)

At some point, every WP article engages in OR depending on how the editors decide to present the information, grouping sources that may not have been grouped before, but as long as details are not inferred that were not explicitly stated in those sources, it's not considered the violation of OR that we normally purge. Similarly, it is possible to do the same with fictional topics. Of course, there are several red flags; those that have vested interest in said topics are going to want to fully explore them more and wandering into OR territory or blow-by-blow details will be a problem. But, by selecting the right resolution of coverage of fiction topics as to make sure we don't provide too many empty glasses and avoid editing in a vacuum , it's possible to create good encyclopedic articles to the manner Phil is asking for without violating any policy. --MASEM 11:58, 30 June 2008 (UTC)
Those 100+ shows aren't independent, third-party sources, so relying on them violates WP:N and WP:RS. That's a pretty major problem.
Kww (talk) 12:11, 30 June 2008 (UTC)
I'm specifically considering only in the context of OR (for the moment, we should assume WP:N is flexible (in discussion and that while RS does ask for third-party, it is not a requirement (nor is it in V)). I'm trying to ask the most pragmatic question as possible with respect to OR: If I had 100 sources on Napolean Bonapart, and 100 sources for Homer Simpson, and was trying to write an article on both, I would still engaging in acceptable quantities of OR that is necessary to summarize those sources. Mind you, I am aware that in the first case, we are summarizing works likely secondary to the topic, while in the latter, we are summarizing primary works, but that's a point of sourcing, not if writing the articles are Original Research to start with. I'm fully aware that some editors will take those 100 sources for Homer and create lots of inference, theories, etc, that do violate OR, and that's what we do need to avoid, but assuming the same experienced editor is doing both Napolean and Homer, that can be expected to not be the case in this hypothetical question. --MASEM 12:24, 30 June 2008 (UTC)
No it's not. Violating the letter of a rule is not a major problem. It's not. Under that interpretation, we can trust anybody with a keyboard to summarize portions of an advanced science textbook (i.e. a secondary source), but we can't trust them to summarize an episode of Pokemon. This is transparently ludicrous, and it is obviously the case that WP:RS and WP:N were never written with the intention of backing us into that corner. Phil Sandifer (talk) 14:05, 30 June 2008 (UTC)
Actually, Phil, it is the major problem. Wikipedia doesn't include material that hasn't already been included in other works. If you want to use Wikipedia to research things that haven't already been covered by multiple independent researchers, you are looking in the wrong place. If a particular episode of a television show wasn't noticed by multiple, independent researchers who then decided that it was important enough to write about, then it isn't notable enough for us to discuss. That's precisely what WP:N was intended to say, that's what is says, and it says it well. If a topic isn't covered in multiple independent sources, then there should not be an article on it in Wikipedia.
Kww (talk) 15:23, 30 June 2008 (UTC)
(EC)To summarize (OR?) your argument, you don't think wikipedia should include information that hasn't already been included in other works and you like the current version of NOTE. Both are things that are up to us, not an immutable rule. It's all opinion. - Peregrine Fisher (talk) (contribs) 15:36, 30 June 2008 (UTC)
Wikipedia does not mandate that we reflexively apply the rules with no thought for the outcome. The interpretation you are suggesting would mean that an advanced secondary source like a review article in a scientific journal is fine for anyone to summarize, but that an episode of Seinfeld is impossible to summarize. That is an obviously ridiculous position, and it is clear that the rules are not intended to back us into absurdities. Furthermore, as I've said in several places, it's misleading to treat episodes as autonomous topics. We have episode articles for Buffy the Vampire Slayer because Buffy is clearly a notable topic, and part of covering a fictional topic thoroughly is a plot summary. At 109 hours of screen time, summarizing Buffy in the main article, or even in one article, is just not going to happen. Hence we use episode articles and character articles as a form of the well-established practice of sub-articles to organize the information usefully. Phil Sandifer (talk) 15:34, 30 June 2008 (UTC)
You are aware that you are effectively ignoring WP:NOT#PLOT and WP:OR (both policy) to the full extent now? You just need to read two paragraphs (all of NOT#PLOT and the first paragraph of OR) to see that episode- and character articles are always a bad idea in the case that Kww described. For everything else, there are still lists to do the job just fine. – sgeureka tc 15:51, 30 June 2008 (UTC)
WP:NOT#PLOT says "A concise plot summary is appropriate as part of the larger coverage of a fictional work." Surely you'll grant that when the fictional work is a 109 hour television series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, even a concise plot is going to take a while. Phil Sandifer (talk) 16:00, 30 June 2008 (UTC)
Sgeureka, you must realize that using WP:OR to object to content based on reality is absurd. Why am I, as a nominally functional human, allowed to look at a dissertation on Einsteins Special theory and summarise it but I am incapable of watching Buffy and commenting that Angel is a vampire with a soul? That's not OR, it's said multiple times over the course of the series... It's the basis for the spin-off into another series. There's no OR there. There's also no overly detailed, expansive plot summary. No conflict with COPYVIO. Summary of this type, after the notability of the series has been established, need not be based on 3rd party sources and cannot possibly, in light of over 100 hours of primary content, be condensed to "Buffy vas just zis girl, you know?" padillaH (review me)(help me) 16:08, 30 June 2008 (UTC)
I don't see how WP:OR mandates against plot summaries. What Phil is talking about is not "unpublished facts, arguments, speculation, and ideas", it's a summary of what has been published or broadcast. There is obviously potential for such summaries to veer into "unpublished analysis or synthesis of published material that serves to advance a position," but that's an editing issue. Editors should be able to spot that sort of original research in a plot summary just as they can in non-fictional articles. Moving on to the "Primary, secondary, and tertiary sources" section of WP:OR, primary sources may be used "with care". The part of an article that relies on a primary source, which is what these plot summaries would be, should "only make descriptive claims about the information found in the primary source, the accuracy and applicability of which is easily verifiable by any reasonable, educated person without specialist knowledge". As above: summarize the material, and don't veer off into speculation and analysis. WP:OR, to my mind, offers guidance on how to write a plot summary, it does not in any way show that they are "always a bad idea". --Stormie (talk) 05:08, 1 July 2008 (UTC)
Actually, Phil, you are completely missing my argument. There shouldn't be a detailed article on an individual television episode because no one else bothered to write it. The fact that other people didn't write detailed examinations of the episode means that it isn't important enough to write about. That's the gist of WP:NOTE, and, as commented above, I'm fine with WP:NOTE, and only wish it was stronger.

It's not that Wikipedia editors can't write about it, it's that they shouldn't, because there aren't multiple independent sources writing about it. I've seen perfectly beautiful articles written about things that got deleted ... well written things about things that shouldn't have been covered in the first place.Kww (talk) 16:40, 30 June 2008 (UTC)
I understand your argument. I just think it's beside the point. The important argument, to my mind, proceeds thusly:
  1. Television Series X (a well-established television series that ran for, let's say, 6 seasons) is notable per generally accepted standards.
  2. As Television Series X is a fictional work, we are expected to provide a concise plot summary. Other generally expected things for fictional works include creative details (i.e. cast/credits), major characters, etc.
  3. As the total runtime of Television Series X is around 100 hours, a concise plot summary is still going to be very, very long. A cast and credit list is also going to be ridiculously long.
  4. As a matter of practical concern, as per WP:SPLIT, as articles get ridiculously long, they should be split down into sub-articles.
  5. Again, as a matter of practical concern, episode articles are a useful scale to split down to.
Which step, exactly, do you see the problem coming in at? Phil Sandifer (talk) 16:51, 30 June 2008 (UTC)

Section break

The problem raises a whisker in step 2, and appears in full glory in step 3. Step 2: Who expects us to do this, and where is it written? There is an implied reference to an unwritten rule here, a deviation from relying guidance from independent sources. Step 3. Your words, “very, very long” and “ridiculously long” clearly mark step 3 as the problem. If you stick with guidance from independent secondary sources, then I doubt your guidance will be both ridiculously long and not providing its own breakdowns that justify separate articles. By guidance, the secondary source provides evidence of what is notable, are you are then able to go directly to primary sources to flesh out detail within that scope. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 04:12, 1 July 2008 (UTC)
WP:NOT#PLOT establishes that we will provide concise plot summaries for fictional works. Similar things come up at WP:WAF and Wikipedia:Plot summaries further support the idea, as does, implicitly, WP:SPOILER. The question then becomes what a concise summary entails. I would hold that it is not sensible to treat this as a hard limit for all fictional works - even at the level of concise, a 100 hour work has different summary needs than a 8 minute one. The sources issue is more subtle - again, remember here that we're talking about a single article (at least initially). That is, if we never, ever split off for sub-articles and didn't worry about article length, WP:NOT#PLOT says we'd have a concise plot summary. But that summary doesn't need to come from secondary sources. A plot summary from a primary source does not violate V or NOR - in fact it uses primary sources in a manner wholly consistent with NOR. So we'd have a plot summary from the primary source, and even at the level of concise, I don't see how to keep a plot summary for a 100 hour narrative down to what fits well in a single article. As a result, some policy has to budge here - either we have to rethink the notion that articles about fiction will contain plot summaries, we have to rethink rules about article length, or we have to rethink how notability relates to sub-articles. But right now the three stand in contradiction. Phil Sandifer (talk) 04:27, 1 July 2008 (UTC)
Agree a plot summary, as it appears, will explicitly be based on the primary sources, as these are the most reliable sources. But if challenged, you should be able to point to independent secondary sources that provide a plot summary of comparable depth and breadth to the plot summary in the wikipedia article. It is a side point that the plot summary secondary sources end up being left out of the final product as an unnessary, less reliable middle-men. I seem to disagree with you in that a plot summary made up from primary sources may violate WP:NOR, if it has gone beyond the depth and breadth of the most extensive third party source. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 06:23, 1 July 2008 (UTC)
That's an interesting point. Why does a plot summary that goes beyond the coverage of third party sources become original research? - Peregrine Fisher (talk) (contribs) 07:01, 1 July 2008 (UTC)
Do you mean "when"? I'd suggest that when a wikipedia plot summary is ten times longer than the third party plot summary, it has gone too long. Ten times, because most third party plot summaries I see are pretty poor, and I expect wikipedia to be ten times better. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 07:43, 1 July 2008 (UTC)
Of course, in most of the cases where reliable third party plot summaries exist they're from guidebooks for the series in question, and are on an episode by episode level, so we're not exactly on thin ice here. Phil Sandifer (talk) 14:21, 1 July 2008 (UTC)
I meant why. The answer is a plot suumary becomes OR the same way with or without third party sources. It's when the summary goes into analysis or synthesis. That isn't effected by third party sources. - Peregrine Fisher (talk) (contribs) 14:35, 1 July 2008 (UTC)
The weak point of guidebooks is when they are not independent. Even if not wholly independent, I personally would be happy to accept evidence of sales of these guidebooks subsequent to publication of the fiction as demonstrating that they are more intended for study than for advertising. Official summaries and reviews leading up to the release of a movie or TV show would not be OK as they are advertising. I would prefer to see plot summaries derived from guidebooks of limited independence than plot summaries that seem to be written from memory by a fan following the veiwing/reading of the work of fiction itself. Peregrine, the few guidebooks I have looked at have indeed gone into analysis and summary, and would cover plot summaries that include analysis. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 01:17, 2 July 2008 (UTC)

Summarizing plot doesn't violate WP:NOR: "Summarizing source material without changing its meaning is not synthesis; it is good editing."

Lets not confuse two different issues here. -- Ned Scott 04:15, 2 July 2008 (UTC)

I think that is a quote out of context. The problem with writing a plot summary entirely based on the work of fiction itself is not that you are synthesizing in violation of WP:SYN, but that you are writing material entirely based on primary sources. Writing material entirely based on primary sources is not strictly forbidden, but it should be avoided. A little bit of this here and there is OK. More is worse. A lot is bad. An article based 100% on primary sources is not OK. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 04:10, 5 July 2008 (UTC)
It's "bad" because using only primary sources is often a red flag for OR. That doesn't mean that will always be the case. It might be a WP:V issue, or a notability issue, but if there's no original research/new idea/whatever being presented in the summary, then it's not a WP:NOR issue. We don't site multiple sources for the summary section of most TV show articles, and why would we? Are we citing how the summary is written? What details to include or not is a notability issue. -- Ned Scott 07:25, 7 July 2008 (UTC)
"What details to include or not is a notability issue". Agreed. This issue doesn't belong here. Only the most extreme cases violate WP:NOR, WP:V or even WP:N, and even when they do, an application of WP:WAF would fix the problem. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 01:16, 8 July 2008 (UTC)
Articles based wholly on OR do violate NOR, which states that articles should rely on secondary sources.
Kww (talk) 12:11, 7 July 2008 (UTC)
smokeyjoe - my question to you is then what do we do about a notable series that has no reliable independent sources for plot? the notabilty criteria utilizes WP:RS in it's definition so it would be contradictory to allow fansites or anonymous databases like to be our "source." While i agree that should a secondary idependent source exist, it needs to be utilized, i can't agree that we aren't to provide any summary when a 2ndary source doesn't exist. it seems you state that providing plot is an "unwritten rule" that we shouldn't be following without relying on independent sources. so if none exist (that fit within our definition of reliable), there shouldn't be anything beyond - "TV Show X is a cartoon that first aired on such-and-such date." B/c you're even saying that official summaries are a no-go, this is literally all that can be said. I just don't see how such a strict viewpoint can be practical.
peregrine - u r right in that the longer a summary goes on, the more likely it is that OR will sneak in, but that's what pages like this and WAF are for, to guide people away from that and make them aware of the pitfalls so they can avoid them. we can't punish people ahead of time, it's like not having certain pages because they are more likely to be vandalized; vandalizism and OR are both bad edits, but they can always be taken out. -ΖαππερΝαππερ BabelAlexandria 13:32, 2 July 2008 (UTC)
Zappernapper, they are good questions, and I am afraid that my opinion here is harsh. If there are no secondary sources for plot, then the plot is not notable, and we should not cover the plot. Presumably, your hypothetical series is notable and has secondary sources, and therefore we have secondary sources that are about the series, but do not even mention plot details. If so, so be it. We should be guided by the sources. I do not say that official summaries are a no go. Instead, I think we should weaken the requirement for secondary sources that are completely independent. If an official guidebook is clearly not produced as advertising, then I personally would lean towards accepting it. I would accept that a guidebook first published after the completion of a series is not advertising for the series. A guidebook published during the series could be considered merely advertising. A guidebook prepared in preparation for the series could be assumed to be advertsing. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 09:01, 3 July 2008 (UTC)
It's an interesting argument, but if I understand what you're saying correctly, you're over extending the purpose of WP:Note. It states: "These notability guidelines only pertain to the encyclopedic suitability of topics for articles but do not directly limit the content of articles." The topic of the article - presumably the work of fiction - requires independent secondary sources to establish notability, and thus to provide an argument for inclusion in Wikipedia. But the content of those articles - and this presumably covers plot, as part of the content - do not need to be limited by their notability. Only by the usual requirements for reliable sourcing and verifiability. Of course, if you're referring to articles which are nothing but plot, then yes, things get much more complex, and you may well have a point. :) - Bilby (talk) 09:47, 3 July 2008 (UTC)
Thanks Bilby. You are right, you could read what I wrote as an overextension of WP:N, and I agree with what you go on to say. If there are no secondary sources supporting a summary of the plot, you can defend its inclusion if it represents a small fraction of the article. If the plot summary is a significant part of the article, then I think it is getting too big, and I could ask for justification based on secondary sources. If the article in little but plot summary, then it is necessary to have independent secondary sources. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 04:10, 5 July 2008 (UTC)