The Great Wikipedia Schism

While I’ve always been a great supporter of Wikipedia, lately things have begun changing that have me questioning whether it’ll work out the way I hoped.

Let me explain.

Lately, the higher-ups at Wikipedia have made some policy decisions which are arguably aimed at increasing the perceived “quality” or “reliability” or “professionalism” of Wikipedia, in comparison to, say, Encyclopedia Brittanica, or any other major encyclopedia. Some of these changes, though, in my opinion at least, go against the original spirit of Wikipedia – the spirit that originally attracted me to the site.

One example: Wikipedia is trying to enforce the idea that articles should only be about things that are “noteworthy.”

OK – so, what the hell is “noteworthy,” anyway?

I’d be hard pressed to define it, and so would anyone else striving for an unbiased opinion. It just can’t be done. As soon as you bring something as ambiguous and subjective as “noteworthiness” into the picture, you’re just asking for trouble. It used to be enough if an article was well-written, factual (cited its sources), written from a neutral point-of-view, and contained no original research. It didn’t matter if it was an article on Barnard’s Star or  the fictional Dahak starship from the sci-fi novels written by David Weber – as long as it followed those few requirements, it was fine for Wikipedia. After all, what seems noteworthy to one person might seem totally useless and not worth remembering to another person – and vice versa.

What’s worse is that because of this desire for “noteworthiness,” some articles are being deleted – and that really just goes against the spirit of an encyclopedia of human knowledge!

There are other things, of course – the removal of “trivia” sections; the removal of plot summaries & episode lists for TV shows – but really, the “noteworthy” thing is probably my biggest pet peeve. I just don’t think it can be reasonably enforced and really, something as subjective as that has no business being in the criteria for a Wikipedia entry.

Author: Keith Survell

A geek, programmer, amateur photographer, anime fan and crazy rabbit person.

3 thoughts on “The Great Wikipedia Schism”

  1. First off, yes, I am a Wikipedia administrator.
    I’ve occasionally been annoyed by the notability system too, but you have to acknowledge the cleanup factor – a lot of the stuff that gets deleted is unadulterated nonsense or advertisement.
    As an administrator, I know why the notability rule exists – it’s really just an extension of the verifiability policy. I’m sure it’s been taken too far in some respects – “notability” is a meme based on Wikipedia jargon that *should* mean “can we find any sources for this”. People thinking about the original English word think of importance and are insulted when their favourite, lesser-publicized topic is deleted as “non-notable”.
    The trouble is, people don’t understand that it’s the jargon meaning that should be carried out – it’s more that we want Wikipedia to be reliable than that we want to delete stuff.

  2. That was quick! Thank you for bringing your point of view to the discussion.

    Still, if “notability” is just “verifiability,” then you have to ask: just what is it we are trying to verify, exactly?

    Perhaps answering that question, instead of trying to determine whether something is “noteworthy,” would help…

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