Proposal talk:Dumb Down Wikipedia

From Strategic Planning

This isn't actually a proposal I agree with— But I often see things proposed which are effectively this idea at their root, but with some lipstick applied to make them sound more exciting. Moreover, we have Simple English Wikipedia which was originally created to be a bridge to English Wikipedia for those learning English, but it has largely developed into something which could be better described as "Simpleton Wikipedia", so clearly there is demand. --Gmaxwell 22:32, 13 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Is this not why we have Simple Wikipedia, excluding that it's meant for people new to English? Blurpeace 22:56, 13 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply] is not so simple. 01:08, 16 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]
So it might be helpful to dumb down simple wikipedia --Jackson 15:20, 21 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

What about credibility?

I don't think dumbing down wikipedia would bring many more users, especially since generalistic articles don't seem that complicated to me, and I don't see why someone without a fairly high education level would look for a quite specialized articles.

Besides, I think lowering the level of wikipedia wouldn't only mean underestimating the reader's capacities, it would also be a issue for the credibility of wikipedia. I don't know what people think abroad but here, in France, a lot of people, especially teachers, who often tell their pupils not to go to wikipedia, tend to despise wikipedia, and lowering the level wouldn't be a good solution to prove those people wrong, since they are mainly intellectuals (or think they are ... :-( ) AdrienE 23:18, 13 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

It's not so much about dumbing down as...

Why not just do a better job of explaining the technical terms? Right now in many articles the only way for a reader to figure out something he/she doesn't understand is to click the link, and sometimes the linked article may include an explanation with more technical terms, and so it may take several clicks before the reader presses the back button, or the reader might never press the back button. So don't lower the level of Wikipedia as a whole. Just make the introductions easier. Here are examples:

Big Bang: "The Big Bang is the cosmological model of the initial conditions and subsequent development of the universe that is supported by the most comprehensive and accurate explanations from current scientific evidence and observation." Good. Long words, but no technical terms.

Here is an example of a hard-to-understand introduction which is even more difficult to figure out by linking.

Ceiling (aeronautics):"In aeronautics, a ceiling is the maximum density altitude an aircraft can reach under a set of conditions." Density altitude?

Density altitude: "Density altitude is the altitude in the International Standard Atmosphere at which the air density would be equal to the actual air density at the place of observation. "Density Altitude" is the pressure altitude adjusted for non-standard temperature." What? The altitude would equal the altitude? Maybe altitude has a technical meaning.

Altitude#Altitude in aviation: "In aviation, the term altitude can have several meanings..." Oh, great. And even the explanations of different types of altitude are technical definitions, not explanations. How about this:

Density altitude is the [[altitude]] in the [[International Standard Atmosphere]] at which the [[density of air|air density]] would be equal to the actual air density at the place of observation, or, in other words, the height when measured in terms of the density of the air rather than the distance from the ground.

That was my edit. I'm Someone the Person. Doing small edits like this can make Wikipedia much easier to understand without any large-scale "dumbing down." 00:53, 14 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I so agree with this proposal. How often haven't I, when reading about a technical subject, figuratively run my head against the wall, because I could not cut through all the technical terms to get just get a basic understanding of what an article is about. It really should be a general Wikipedia guideline, that all leads in articles on technical subjects should, as far as possible, contain some sort of layman explanation of the concept. 06:33, 22 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I vehemently disagree with this proposal as it stands. What I suggest is both the technical AND the simpleton(american) version. There have been several times when I have been dis-appointed in the article I have surfed because it was Dumbed down and a PROPER treatment of the subject would have satisfied me. I SAY(SHOUT) PROPER TECHNICAL AND DUMB(AMERICAN). 17:47, 23 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Well, isn't that exactly what is being proposed above? Having both a technical correct and a layman explanation of any complicated subject. 05:52, 25 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

@Someone the Person: it looks to me that the problem with Density altitude is not the degree to which it is technical but the (probably deliberate?) bad writing. It is much more logical to start this off with basic information, for example:

"Density altitude is a technical term used in the International Standard Atmosphere, an international standard for matters concerning the atmosphere. It expresses the altitude under standard circumstances at which the air density would be equal to the actual air density at the actual place of observation."

Just dumbing it down and inserting false terminology is not likely to help. - Brya 07:12, 28 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

filtering out big words

I do not like the idea of preventing users from using too many difficult words. This could discourage experts from editing articles about subjects which they are interested in. I think it would be a great idea, however, to add plain-English explanations of complex topics to technical Wikipedia articles. A glossary defining difficult terms can be added to long articles. If a Wikipedia editor comes across an article that's too technical, maybe they should try to make it easier to understand, instead of trying to prevent too-technical articles from sprouting into existence in the first place. Gary2863 01:39, 14 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Exactly. Editors capable of creating a proper article will be dis-couraged, because they want their articles to reflect their skill and knowledge. What I suggest is that editors carry on writing proper articles, and those who cannot understand it be given an easy method of requesting a simple explanation.Petebutt 18:07, 23 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Are You Kidding Me?

I'm not entirely sure that this proposal is anything but a joke. -- 01:44, 14 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Support -- 03:14, 14 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]
There's this really nifty reader feedback tool at the bottom of each proposal page. That's the easiest way to add your level of interest in a proposal.  :-) -- Philippe 03:17, 14 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]
joke? clearly you must be some smug elitist ahole. 01:10, 16 August 2009 (UTC)
I see from the above comment that the dumbing-down has already started. :))--Andreasegde 21:01, 16 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]
This talk section seems like a flamebait. My comment would preferrably be the last in this section. Let's see if it is so... Rursus 08:59, 18 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]
This must be a joke. This is an ENCYCLOPEDIA! Let the dumbs learn a word or two. It won't hurt.
Yes, the proposal is a) unnecessary, as in practice this happens frequently (there is lots of falsely-simplified 'content' already) and b) contrary to the Verifiability-policy, which prescribes that Wikipedia should have actual information, not 'dumbed-down' popular myths. - Brya 14:07, 23 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I Believe He/She Is Kidding You

First of all, an encyclopaedia has to follow certain rules and have a certain form in order to provide the reader with required information. This requires the reader to attain a level of intellectual accumulation. Crippling an encyclopaedia in order to fit it with the reader is contrary to the sole reason behind its existence. Besides, the content of Wikipedia as it is hardly reaches the required level for any reader who has the slightest idea about a particular subject... It's nowhere near academic level. Gaddarca

Faulty premise

Wikipedia is not written to a graduate level. Some parts of it are, certainly, but some topics can only really be understood by graduates anyway (advanced Mathematics articles spring to mind). Most of it is much more accessible. --Tango 01:48, 14 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

While reading this proposal articles about mathematics are exactly what sprang to mind. While I don't believe Wikipedia itself should be 'dumbed down', perhaps more emphasis should be put on developing the Simple Wikipedia, specificly for subjects such as math articles.
It is, for example, incredibly difficult for the layman to understand the article on, say, derivatives, however a simple article explaining the concept in a similar way to how a high school mathematics teacher would explain it could be extremely useful to, say, highschool and college students learning the concepts.
Perhaps redirects to the Simple Wikipedia could be added to the tops of pages like that. Something along the lines of, "For a simpler explanation of derivatives, see Simple:Derivatives." 8bit 12:02, 14 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]
There is no "Simple Wikipedia", there is a "Simple English Wikipedia", that is a Wikipedia in Simple English. It is supposed to use simpler language, it is not meant to be dumbed down (at least, that's how it was in the early days, I haven't been there in while - I used to be an admin there, though). --Tango 18:55, 14 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]
And it's been pointed out in the past that "Simple English" isn't entirely accurate. "Basic English" is a more correct term. –Juliancolton | Talk 19:00, 14 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I realize that the simple wikipedia was originally used for explaining topics to individuals which don't have a strong handle on the English language- I'm just saying it should be expanded, for the purpose of explaining complex topics to people who don't already understand them.
By the way, I avoid using the term 'Simple English Wikipedia' if only because, if the purpose is expanded it shouldn't be kept specific to the English wiki. 8bit 21:07, 14 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]


Pretty sure you've just set yourself up for being called a tool. People who can't read Wikipedia's articles can use Simple English wikipedia. 02:49, 14 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

  • Yup, use Simple English wiki if you can't read above primary school level. 05:14, 14 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]


The "abuse filter" mediawiki extension could be used to prohibit the addition of words deemed "too difficult" for the lowest common denominator, so no new software development should be required.

We also should filter sarcasm deemed "too difficult" for the lowest common denominator. And they wonder why trolls love the internet. 03:27, 14 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]


We understand WP needs money to work, but now it has to work for money? Is the objective to make knowledge accessible to everyone, or just to be accessible to anyone, especially if they can contribute half a buck? For shame!

But... well, maybe this is right after all. The lowest common denominator is the majority, isn't it? It's us intellectual snobs who are the troublemakers all the time. In the best interests of commerce and universal peace, we should dumb down Wikipedia, and then we ought to introduce mandatory IQ tests at age ten. Anything above the "lowest common denominator" should get a free lobotomy. Heil Hitler! Thamus 06:36, 14 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Ithink you've answered on the wrong page, but yes i agree. 18:02, 23 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Proposal needs new title and change in direction

If you want this proposal to take off, I would change the title. Personally, I think a better direction would be "Make Wikipedia more well rounded". Simply because, I don't want to see material dumbed down. The simple fact that articles are detailed and give the whole story and all sides of complex issues and topics, is what makes Wikipedia great. What we need, as you elude to, is fuller explanation. This may mean explaining terms which the general reader may not know, even if it goes outside the subject of the topic at hand. We need fuller, easier to read prose, more explanations and examples. As a simple example, in the article on Oersted, an anon. IP reader complained that they did not know what a voltaic pile was. I interwikilinked to it, but then I decided that wasn't enough. It now says, voltaic pile, an early type of battery.

Take for instance the subject of Quantum Mechanics. Right now, we have an "introductory level" page, which I think is a great idea. We could use that on some other pages. But then we also have a page with more technical, mathematical treatment, which is an awesome resource. However, when we get to specialized topics within quantum mechanics, and getting into technical details of Quantum Field Theory, not all the articles have good explanations. They are hard even for graduate students in physics to work through. They need more explanation and tie-ins to other articles. Danski14 03:18, 15 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Something like "Make better leads" might be a compromise here. Leads are the first paragraphs, written for a more general audience, located before section listings on articles. --Bcjordan 08:43, 15 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

(comment copied from proposal text)

(By me User:Rursus. I take no responsibility for its opinion though, neither its tone. Rursus 08:49, 18 August 2009 (UTC))Reply[reply]

Pointless:Simple English WP already does this. Unconstructive:we want to promote knowledge not suppress it.Unsigned post made by anonymous Sir/Mam — signature added by User:Rursus for full identification of who-says-what (08:54, 18 August 2009 (UTC))Reply[reply]
Do this to the first paragraph I would be in favour of a "simple first paragraph campaign". (Especially for mathematical subjects). Make it clear that the first paragraph is for dummies and that the more careful definition can await subsequent paragraphs. Simple definitions always get replaced by more longer, more accurate but harder to understand ones. Unsigned post made by anonymous Sir/Mam — signature added by User:Rursus for full identification of who-says-what (08:54, 18 August 2009 (UTC))Reply[reply]


Yes, as the proposal is formulated it is good. However the proposal name is a misnomer that is provoking a lot of lesser quality comments as can be seen from a few of the above section discussions. The central problem is the entry level of the wikipedia article, that is: the education level expected of the person reading an article might be too high. "Dumb Down" might imply making it easier by removing unnecessarily complicated content, but that couldn't be what is intended, because we wish the editors to still be interested of Wikipedia, instead the topic must be about writing style, especially about the article introductions. A general language style guide should prescribe the clause-subclause layout, a classical example is a subclausing overload because editor undiscriminately specify concepts more precisely. For the intro of an article, terms used to defined the concept shouldn't be too complex (if possible). If terms user must be too complex, they should be explained by one sentence in relation to where mentioned. Writing intelligibly is not just for the dumber or younger (or both), it is for all. I think the real name of this proposal is approximately Writing style for intelligibility. Rursus 09:23, 18 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I agree. Far too often articles are written by experts for other experts. (Read almost any math-related article on en.wikipedia, if you don't believe me.) However, the idea is not to "dumb down" articles, but to avoid jargon & technical language. Wittgenstein wrote his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus with almost no jargon or specialized language (unlike the vast majority of contemporary philosophers), & he problems he poses in that short book still fascinate students of philosophy. Another idea would be to write for the general reader. As an example, a few weeks ago I read the en.wikipedia article on lichen, & while a great amount of space is devoted to their taxonomy & morphology nothing was said about a point which would be of far more interest to the general reader: how did scientists discover that lichen were actually two different species of life? (I left a note about this omission on the Talk page, but despite 3 different editors adding to the page, no one has addressed this need.) The reason this proposal is facing a certain death is the subject line & the assumptions it conveys. -- Llywrch 18:50, 31 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

'Simplified View' tab instead of diluting the quality of articles

This proposal would be better realized by adding a 'Simplified View' tab and/or a 'View this page in a simplified form' link under the page title headline. This would not just be separate versions of articles. I envision this as an extension to the software, where the unabridged article and the simplified article are part of the same article. Users could set options as to which version is displayed by default. This could be temporarily overridden by a URL like<Article name>|Simplified or<Article name>?version=simplified. I am not sure if such capability is already present in the software or if this would require additional work.

Jersey emt 04:27, 20 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

That won't work as you describe it. Most articles that dumbies complain about could not simply be abridged, as you suggest, they would need completely re-writing to fit the target audience. What I have suggested below would cater for both parties, where the opportunity to request a Dumbed Down version be given for those that need it. The risk of editors moving away from writing articles is very real216.241.47.196 17:59, 23 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Name threw me off - looking to dumb down processes and techniques

The name of this proposal threw me off. I thought it was going to be about dumbing down the processes and techniques used to create and edit pages. What I'm looking for just happened to me. I wanted to create a Favorite proposals and like a dummy I simply clicked on the "create" button. Well, it didn't place my user name and now there is a generic favorites. I already that in wiki I will need to hunt and peck to find out how to do this. It is disheartening and frustrating when what I realy want to do is learn and contribute to Proposals. Seems this proposal is more about the sophistication of the content of the articles and not the editing processes and techniques. You may want to change the name to reflect dumbing down the content versus dumbing down technical processes and techniques. Pknkly 17:16, 22 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Simplification of certain articles

I've had to use to use a lot of wikipedias scientific, particularly biology related articles for my GCSE (I don't know what level that is in America...) coursework, and found some of them incredibly difficult to understand. People are suggesting Simple English articles, but I found that the majority of articles I needed didn't have Simple pages, and for those that did, they seemed to be aimed at 10 year olds. There aren't just idiots and geniuses out there using these articles, there are people in between. Black Cat Claws 14:57, 23 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

This must be a joke

No, I'm not an elitist, and it's true that some people use unnecessarily complicated words when they explain simple things. But this proposal just can't be taken seriously.

  • "A goal of Wikipedia is to be inclusive." --- No, it's not. Its goal is to collect and present human knowledge. And human knowledge can be and often is complicated.
  • "Inherently complicated concepts should be presented as simplified strawmen which can be easily read." --- No, they shouldn't. For every concept there is a necessary background, including the basic vocabulary that goes with it. You can't jump to quantum physics if you don't know anything about plain mechanics, electricity, and so on. Explaining complex subjects in dumbed-down words is not just nearly impossible, but highly frustrating for those readers who do have the right background.
  • "by being more inclusive Wikipedia may attract more readers and thus more donation income." --- That is not the purpose of Wikipedia.
  • "Much of the popular media in the US is written at roughly an 8th grade level." --- That is the problem of the US popular media. Why is this relevant here? At Wikipedia we don't sell air time for commercials, we write an encyclopedia.
  • "The "abuse filter" mediawiki extension could be used to prohibit the addition of words deemed "too difficult" for the lowest common denominator" --- This is simply outrageous! How are we supposed to write about concepts that need specialized terminology, which surely goes above your lowest common denominator?

Wikipedia is there to make people less dumb. Why would we change that? --AdiJapan 08:16, 26 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I agree. Nobody ever got smarter by being treated as if he were dumb. Wutsje 23:55, 28 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]


Some proposals will have massive impact on end-users, including non-editors. Some will have minimal impact. What will be the impact of this proposal on our end-users? -- Philippe 00:08, 3 September 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]