On 4/13/07, MacGyverMagic/Mgm
Trivial mentions usually don't give much
information to base an article on,
but in the right circumstances, it can be an excellent aid in determining
Example: Even if John Doe has no article written specifically about him. If
some article mentions he was the first to climb Mount Everest, his
notability is established, despite the fact he may have had a one
line-mention in a 2000 word article.
True...but not. If that were genuinely all there is, we could consider
him notable all we like, but we shouldn't have the article. Generally,
however, that's a moot point. The first guy to climb Everest has tons
of material written about him, easily allowing us to have an article.
The trouble we run into is "notability by category", where we're
looking at the wrong thing. Instead of saying "Do we think that an X
is notable?" we should be asking "Has it been noted? (As in, is there
a good amount of reliable source material available?)" As with
everything, what -we- think means nothing, what the -sources- think
means everything. If the sources, by -not noting- the subject
significantly, decide it's not notable, it's not our place to
"correct" or overrule that, any more than we'd do with any sourcing
issue. Of course, issues of minor note may still be appropriate to
mention in related or parent articles.
That is a good point, and I would agree ... to an extent.
We're amateurs, usually in the sense of "rank amateur". Wikipedia is a
tertiary source, and we're relying on the words of experts to help us
write a quality reference. We don't do original research, in part
because it's not our place to do so, and in part because that's not what
an encyclopaedia is for, anyway. And, arguably, Wikipedians making up
their own minds about notability in deletion/creation debates is little
different from Wikipedians drawing their own conclusions when writing
articles. So, you have a good point.
We have to be careful about systemic bias, however. It is much easier
to find well-sourced information about a contestant voted off (or
whatever it is they do) on the first week of /American Idol/, than it is
to research the life of a Sikh religious hero. There are a number of
reasons for this:
* We write for the English Wikipedia. Most of us are native
English-speakers, and like most native English-speakers, we don't know
any other languages. So, sources written in Punjabi or whatever are
closed to us.
* I do 98% of my research on the Internet; when I refer to books at all,
it's because happy chance has led to me having a book on the subject
(this is rare). I assume most of us are the same. Subjects of
concern to Westerners, in particular English-speaking Westerners, in
particular Americans, are much easier to access online than other
subjects. It may not be possible to learn as much as we'd like about
Sikh history online.
* We know about /American Idol/. Even I would be able to research and
write about any /Idol/-related person we need an article about. If I
wanted to discuss, say, the linguistic history of Benin, I wouldn't
even know where to start looking ... and neither would most
We need to remember that not all subjects can be as easily-sourced as
the subjects we usually write about (that's why they're not one of the
subjects we usually write about, eh?). If for all questions of
worthiness we turn to the American press (say), we will find out only
what the American press a) know about, and b) think their audience will
care about. And that's narrowing the world down a great deal further
than I think an international, comprehensive encyclopaedia ought.
"'Yes, sir,' said Jeeves in a low, cold voice, as if he had been bitten
in the leg by a personal friend."
- P G Wodehouse, /Carry On, Jeeves/