[WikiEN-l] Trivia and popular culture sections

Guy Chapman aka JzG guy.chapman at spamcop.net
Sun Feb 26 12:47:01 UTC 2006

On Sat, 25 Feb 2006 22:21:03 -0800, you wrote:

>If the trivial information begins to overwhelm the "important" 
>information the better alternative to deleting the trivia is to add mor 
>important information.  The only disadvantage to that approach is that 
>it requires work.

There is an article on Robert Hooke.  It is a reasonable sized
article, which cites as a source a book by Margaret 'Espinasse.
'Espinasse's book runs to about a thousand pages, I think, and cites
among its sources Robert Gunther's "Early Science at Oxford", of which
five full volumes are devoted to Hooke.  I have 'Espinasse's old copy
of the Gunther, and could quite easily add all the information to the
Hooke article, it is long since out of copyright and all information
in it is in any case cited from the papers of the Royal Society,
Robert Boyle and others.

But a lot of it is trivial, in the sense of being far more detail than
any user of a general encyclopaedia will ever need or want; to include
it would make it practically impossible to separate out the genuinely
significant items from Hooke's life from exchanges of letters with
French astronomers about the use of "microscopical eyepieces" in
telescopes, or failed attempts to duplicate various experiments for
the Royal Society, or the weekly progress reports on the cataloguing
of the library.

Another example: should we add to an article on Giant Bicycles a
mention of every single type and model of bicycle made by them over
their history?  With the date and the name of the designer?  Or should
we restrict ourselves to mentioning that, for example, some were
designed by Mike Burrows, with a little more detail in the Mike
Burrows article?

And if we do adopt the approach of including *everything* verifiable,
however trivial, what steps do we take to notify the reader that the
items listed are not the most significant, but are merely included
because somebody was interested in them for some local reason and
therefore tracked down a source; that the items known to be much more
significant will be added just as soon as someone can find a reliable
source?  Is this not just a way of increasing bias?

My view is that when they wrote "Wikipedia is not an indiscriminate
collection of information" they had in mind keeping the focus on what
is actually important, rather than running off after red herrings.
Guy (JzG)

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