Proposal:Change Wikipedia Notability Guidelines

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  1. Achieve continued growth in readership
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  3. Increase Participation
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Ask the community to propose the best ways to relax notability standards.

Under the current Wikipedia guidelines, if the topic of an article doesn't meet certain criteria for being "notable", then the article is invariably deleted. This results in many valid, informative, verifiable articles--along with the time and effort put into creating them--going to waste.


Instead of deleting an article if it doesn't meet some people's criteria for notability, the guidelines should encourage the creation of articles pertaining to subjects that may be less popular. An article should be considered for inclusion in Wikipedia if it informs the reader of relevant facts they would not have otherwise known. Right now, the bar is way too high.


Select topics are included in traditional encyclopedia volumes due to the physical nature of an encyclopedia. To include every topic imaginable would be impractical. However, since Wikipedia is not a paper encyclopedia, we don't have to worry about shipping the information contained within, nor do we have to worry about the physical space required to house the articles. The standards are set so high on a physical encyclopedia because they have to be. It doesn't make much sense to apply those same standards to Wikipedia, because we don't have to. If someone doesn't want to read about a topic (s)he might find obscure, (s)he doesn't have to read it, and the inclusion of the topic doesn't affect her/him in any way other than providing the information contained within should (s)he choose to read it.

In Wikipedia's case, deletionism (read: elitism) is counter-productive. Recent statistics suggest that notability standards in general may have been too strict, leading to the loss of productive editors whose content has been removed on notability grounds.

Key Questions

  • What does Wikipedia gain by deleting articles some administrators don't feel deserve to be included in Wikipedia?
  • What does Wikipedia lose?
  • What do Wikipedia's readers gain?
  • What do Wikipedia's readers lose?
  • Is the definition of "encyclopedic" a static definition?
  • Which of our notability standards are most likely too strict in the sense that they may have led to editors leaving the project?
  • Which of the notability standards could be relaxed without causing harm to the project?
  • What is the intersection between the notability standards which are too strict and those which could reasonably be relaxed?
  • What is the best way to relax those notability standards which are too strict and could reasonably be relaxed?

Potential Costs

  • Extra storage space due to more articles allowed to exist (although storage gets cheaper every day)
  • Extra effort to review smaller, niche-topic articles (although I'm sure Wikipedia would gain more editors if policies such as the Notability policy were relaxed)
  • A slippery slope of flexibility would allow articles which users are looking for to be drowned out in a sea of articles that only a few people care about
  • For example, there have been many John Smiths who have had quite an influence throughout history. Yet John Smith is also a very popular name. The John Smith of Jamestown set the course of history for much of America. Many more people would like to know about this John Smith than they would about John Smith your second cousin. To include such information and dilute the concentration and accessibility of the information that has been most consistently been found relevant to human life (as should be continually determined and refined by discussion and new methods of determining notability).
  • It must be acknowledged that some information is more valuable for understanding history, science, society etc., than others. While wikipedia could imaginably serve as an attempted repository for all human knowledge everywhere, wikipedia is not constructed in a way conducive to this, and wikipedia's service of this function is unneccessary - there are plenty mediums by which humans can communicate facts besides wikipedia. Supposedly, the centralization of this information would provide a convenient structure for accessing any and all information, but again, Wikipedia, which indexes all information by a title name and then links to an explanatory article is not necessarily the best medium to do this in
  • The execution of notability determination has some clear flaws, and probably is overused, however as the above paragraphs argue, it serves an important purpose.


Community Discussion

Do you have a thought about this proposal? A suggestion? Discuss this proposal by going to Proposal Talk:Change Wikipedia Notability Guidelines.

Want to work on this proposal?

  1. SamB 03:16, 26 May 2011 (UTC)
  2. .. Sign your name here!