--- "Michael R. Irwin" <mri_icboise(a)surfbest.net> wrote:
I think that having the Wikipedia Guard or Militia
routinely deleting empty good titled articles may
only slow down the growth in bread and depth of
the Wikipedia. Some people may like organizing
the link structures and establishing good initial titles
and interconnections. Why should this contribution
be routinely deleted? How much subsequent work is
then lost from contributors who while browsing may
choose to add an easy paragraph but who will not
undertake an entire stub and the effort required
to link it appropriately into an entire encyclopedia?
It is interesting that the debate about article deletion turns on the
contributing habits of other people, not ourselves. Do any of us go
around creating poor stubs, content-free articles, or other stuff that
is a candidate for deletion? It seems not, i.e. it seems that nobody
on the mailing list is suggesting deleting any article created by
anyone else on the mailing list. Apparently, no matter how varied in
substance and style our contributions may be, we all recognize that we
are all doing useful work.
Therefore article deletion seems to be less a matter of encyclopdia
building, and more a matter of public relations. How does the
established community interact with newbies? Do we risk discouraging
contributions, even if they are contributions such as we ourselves
would not make? When old hands work in a manner congenial to
themselves, does it make a bad impression on newcomers?
I am probably the newbiest (or should that be most newbiest?) on the
list right now. I still have to fight the temptation to ask for
permission to make changes rather than simply making them. And I still
remember fairly clearly my pre-Wikipedia notion of how collaboration
might or might not work. My opinion is only mine, but I present it for
what it is worth.
Far and away the most important impression for new contributors is
whether or not they are part of a vibrant, ongoing interaction. I
still remember the huge rush it was for me to write my first short
article, and discover a few hours later that someone had corrected my
spelling and added a link. From that instant I was sold on the
concept, and began preaching to everyone who would listen that
Wikipedia was the Next Big Thing (TM).
By the same token, the worst possible impression newbies can get is
that nobody cares. I am still smarting from having a change of mine
reversed with no more than a terse comment and no effort at dialogue.
And I remember the disappointment of waiting for days and days to see
what would be done with another contribution of mine, only to slowly
conclude that nobody was going to work on it with me. Each case was a
different side of being ignored. (Of course, by now I realize the
efficiencies of discussing by editing rather than talking about
editing, and realize too that even the most obscure article comes
around for editing eventually, but I didn't have that perspective at
With this in mind, I think that the timing of a delete is critical. If
someone created an empty article a month ago and nothing has happened
to it since, we need have no fear of deleting it. Whoever made it is
long gone. They don't care about it, or they wouldn't have left it.
They won't feel that we are undoing their hard work; they aren't coming
back every week to admire their miniscule efforts.
On the other extreme, if a useless article has been created by a newbie
in the last twenty-four hours, they would likely be extremely gratified
at any attempt at communication, if only appending to their article
"Would you like to expand this a little? See
The impression we make on new contributors is more important than the
impression we make on passive viewers, but the latter is worth a
thought too, since today's passive viewer may become tomorrow's
participant. I know from my father's reaction to Wikipedia (i.e.
complete dismissal) how damaging it is to have poor articles, and how
much preferable it would be to have nothing at all rather than garbage
or a pathetic stub. On the other hand, now that I am a contributor
myself, I can see how counterproductive it would be to try to remove
everything that "lowers the average".
The best solution I can think of is to make it more obvious that poor
articles are obviously under construction. For example, the article on
chess-playing computers for many moons had a placeholder in it saying
"fill in early history" or something like that. Admittedly, when I saw
that placeholder for the twentieth time it started to grate on me, but
when I saw it for the first time it helped clarify that the article was
not a bad article, but rather an article that needed fleshing out.
Given the current state of much of our product, it is well to focus
outsiders on the process.
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