Final Project: Inclusionism vs. Deletionism

Throughout this class, we have discussed what sets Wikipedia apart from other information sources. Its free, anyone can edit the articles, and it’s meant to be an inclusive source to spread information that may not otherwise be readily accessed. The nature of Wikipedia is to be inclusive, something that may be obscure or undeveloped can still have value to someone and they should be able to view it on Wikipedia. Infinite space allows any topic, person, or event to be covered in great detail that far outreaches ordinary encyclopedias. However, there is a bigger debate taking place on Wikipedia between the Wikiprojects Articles for Inclusion and Articles for Deletion. The makers of Wikipedia developed a set of rules for editors to comply to which can but heads with inclusionary vision of encyclopedia. Editors become either inclusionists who believe in keeping and adding articles despite their obscurity, and deletionists who uphold the notability rule of Wikipedia and want to get these articles deleted. The two philosophies frequently clash as editors try to add new articles and as other users try to eliminate articles they think are unnecessary.

I participated in both Articles for Inclusion and Articles for Deletion.  Both processes are pretty straightforward and I found myself focusing more heavily on the Articles for Deletion. The deletion process starts with any editor nominating an article for deletion. The article’s merits are then discussed amongst the Wikipedia community for at least seven days. Users review its value to readers and whether it violates an Wikipedia rules. After much discussion, experienced Wikipedians and administrators impartially look at the arguments for and against an article in order to come to a consensus. The consensus is not a counted vote for keeping or deleting an article, but deciding which side has better arguments.

After speaking with other editors involved in the deletion process and looking at the articles currently up for deletion, the largest problem contributing to more deleted articles is self-promotion. For example, rising actors and political figures who are only known on a local level create Wikipedia articles to seem more legitimate and spread their agenda. Editors try to delete these articles to eliminate Wikipedia as a means for self-promotion. Notability is the biggest rule violated- other editors agree these figures are not well known enough to warrant their own article. The notability rule is tricky because it can be so subjective. I believe that if an article is read by anyone other than the creator, it should stay. What is irrelevant to some will be important to others. I understand the issue with someone trying to promote themselves, but if editors can find valid sources even for obscure people and other topics, they should remain on Wikipedia. Other reasons things were deleted include not enough reliable sources, level of importance, and inserting too much point of view. All of these can be remedied through editing and not simply deleted.

The Articles for Inclusion project works to counteract article deletion. After briefly discussing the debate in class, I decided that I was an inclusionist. The beauty of Wikipedia is its inclusive nature- anyone can read it or edit so it’s a groundbreaking, bottomless way to spread knowledge. The Articles for Inclusion project’s main goal is to allow Wikipedia to become the sum of all human knowledge. Members of their association sit on the “front lines” of article deletion, to help articles remain on Wikipedia. Some members join the Article Rescue Squadron to help edit articles up for deletion. I think this is the best way to handle articles nominated for deletion. Articles nominated for deletion are typically undetailed, lack credible sources, or have a strong point of view. Weak articles can be fixed and can be improved in order to stay on Wikipedia. I joined this project to see how things work on either side of the debate. I am still an inclusionist and think the best practice is to fix the article, not eliminate it completely.

I tried to communicate with several different editors on either side of the debate. For this project I primarily used the talk function on Wikipedia to be able to understand the different arguments for and against both inclusionism and deletionism. Several users including Valoem and Mz7 discussed why they work on deleting articles they don’t think should be on Wikipedia.

I think the consensus system to determine whether an article should be deleted or not could be improved. I like that it doesn’t just count heads of who is on which side of the debate- I think this could lead to sock puppets taking over the decision. However, it seems exclusive to allow long-time editors to make the decisions- this could lead to biased answers as the same pool of editors decide what stays and goes. A huge goal of other Wikipedians is to bridge the gender gap on Wikipedia as most editors are male. I think the editors in charge of assessing the arguments need to work with the creator more and give the article a longer chance to be improved.

My achievements were most significant to myself as an editor, on a more personal scale. In class we primarily edited preexisting articles. This project allowed me to learn about the process of creating articles and learn more how the Wikipedia community works. I like that the process tries to get as many editors involved as possible – however I think the consensus aspect could be improved. I got very comfortable with talk page to be able to communicate with other editors. I also joined the Wikiproject: Articles for Inclusion. Wikipedia seems to have a strong sense of community. However, it grew difficult to hear back from the top leaders of the different philosophies. I expected more communication than I received- it was tougher to engage with people than I thought.

To further work on helping articles stay on Wikipedia, future editors can join the Wikiproject and get involved with the debate to keep articles. More experienced editors’ opinions are more respected during the debate. Getting seasoned Wikipedians involved will help keep content there.

I feel like most articles are added in good faith. What is obscure or irrelevant to one person is probably important to another. Therefore I maintain my stance as an inclusionist after putting my feet in both camps over the past two weeks. Notability is too subjective as a rule and seems to be the most confusing for biographical articles. If a person has contributed something to his or her community and someone wants to add an article with good sources and has enough information to write a complete article, they should be allowed to. I think other editors are too quick to judge new articles and try to get them removed, when they could be helping improving the articles to make a stronger, more comprehensive encyclopedia.

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