[Foundation-l] Biographies of Living People: a quick interim update

David Goodman dgoodmanny at gmail.com
Tue Mar 10 00:15:50 UTC 2009

We should take it as seriously as we would any other statement from
someone with Conflict of interest--seriously, but with great caution.
It does not have the usual presumption of encyclopedic purpose.

On Mon, Mar 9, 2009 at 5:59 PM, Sue Gardner <sgardner at wikimedia.org> wrote:
> 2009/3/8 Nathan <nawrich at gmail.com>:
>> On Sun, Mar 8, 2009 at 5:12 PM, Sue Gardner <sgardner at wikimedia.org> wrote:
>>> 1)  There is a big unresolved question around whether, if
>>> marginally-notable people ask to have their articles deleted, that
>>> request should be granted.  My sense -both from the discussion here
>>> and other discussions elsewhere- is that many Wikipedians are very
>>> strongly protective of their general right to retain even very
>>> marginal BLPs.  Presumably this is because notability is hard to
>>> define, and they are worried about stupid across-the-board
>>> interpretations that will result in massive deletionism.  However,
>>> other people strongly feel that the current quantity of BLPs about
>>> less-notable people diminish the overall quality of the encyclopedia,
>>> reduce our credibility, and run the risk of hurting real people.
>>> There seems to be little consensus here.   Roughly: some people seem
>>> to strongly feel the bar for notability should be set higher, and
>>> deletion requests generally granted: others seem to strongly feel the
>>> current state is preferable.  I would welcome discussion about how to
>>> achieve better consensus on this issue.
>> I would quibble with this statement a little bit. There is a difference in
>> my mind between raising the notability bar and granting weight to subject
>> requests for deletion. There seems to be a growing agreement that marginally
>> notable subjects make for bad biographies and greater risk; there is very
>> little appetite for beginning deletion discussions or deleting articles upon
>> subject request.
>> So these two issues need to be separated, because indeed they are quite
>> separate.
> Totally agreed, yes - thanks Nathan. In future I will separate these
> two points.
>  One asks whether the subject of an article (be it a person,
>> corporation, or any other entity with living representatives) should be
>> afforded some control over encyclopedia content, even as little as the
>> ability to request a deletion nomination; most Wikipedians would be against
>> this, I believe.
> Hm. That's interesting.
> As a basic principle, that makes sense to me - that article subjects
> shouldn't have control over the content of the encyclopedia.  But
> -perhaps this is a little bit of hair-splitting- OTOH I don't think we
> should take deletion requests any _less_ seriously than complaints
> from disinterested observers. In other words - someone saying "the
> article about me is awful and shouldn't be in an encyclopedia" should
> be taken equally as seriously as someone saying "that article about X
> is awful and doesn't deserve to be in an encyclopedia." In both
> instances, the article needs be assessed on its own merits.
> I say this because sometimes I think people may be tempted to refuse
> deletion requests _because_ they come from the article subject. If
> that indeed happens, I believe it's a mistake.
>> The other issue, of marginal notability and the risk it poses to Wikipedia,
>> is much more relevant for this discussion.
> Yes. I would love to see it discussed more here :-)
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David Goodman, Ph.D, M.L.S.

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