[WikiEN-l] Trivia and popular culture sections

Bryan Derksen bryan.derksen at shaw.ca
Sun Feb 26 19:35:01 UTC 2006

Guy Chapman aka JzG wrote:
> 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.
It would be better to put something like that at Wikisource or Project 
Gutenberg, of course. But if you wanted to write a summary of all of 
that as Wikipedia articles you might be able to do it best as a 
constellation of related articles focusing on specific sub-topics. For 
example, the article on Isaac Newton has a general summary at [[Isaac 
Newton]] and also more specialized articles at [[Isaac Newton's early 
life and achievements]], [[The writing of Principia Mathematica]], 
[[Isaac Newton's later life]], etc. - see 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Isaac_Newton for tons of stuff 
about the man and his work.

A lot of Hooke's research would probably fit in better with articles 
about the _research_ rather than about the _man_, so if you were to 
write an article covering all of that I expect it would also shed pieces 
into those topics as well. That's still a net gain for Wikipedia, so 
again no reason not to go ahead and write it.

> 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?
Split off [[List of Giant Bicycles models]]. Or if that's too large as a 
single list, [[List of Giant Bicycles models (1972-1980)]], [[List of 
Giant Bicycles models (1981-1990)]], [[List of Giant Bicycles models 
(1991-2000)]], and [[List of Giant Bicycles models (2001-2010)]]. Put 
them all in [[Category:Giant Bicycles]] to keep things organized, 
especially if individual models start getting their own articles too.

We've got articles and lists for practically every piece of trivial 
military equipment one can think of, lists of all manner of car models, 
even lists of bus stops and tiny railways that have been defunct for 
over a hundred years. Why not bicycles as well?
> 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?
Significance is in the eye of the beholder. I have absolutely no 
interest in old defunct pissant frontier railway companies from a 
hundred years ago, but there are railway enthusiasts for whom this sort 
of thing is their _life_. I'm not going to judge them silly, though. I 
have interests of my own that I'm sure they'd find equally trivial - 
just a few hours ago I doubled the size of the article on Squerrik, a 
fictional minor deity from Dungeons and Dragons that I'm sure even the 
vast majority of rabid D&D players have never even heard of. As long as 
the articles are clear about what their subject matter is up front - 
"Foo is a defunct 20-mile railroad that existed from 1880-1885" or "Bar 
is a minor deity from the standard 2nd Edition Dungeons and Dragons 
cosmology" - then all I have to do is glance at the article and I can 
immediately tell whether _I_ find the subject significant or not.
> 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)
My view is that this means we're supposed to be writing _articles_, 
rather than just almaniacal blobs of raw data. Granted, the "list of" 
articles sometimes verge on that, but even they can serve Wikipedia well 
as either indexes or as collections of mini-articles that would never 
grow beyond stub sizes on their own. And an almaniacal blob can still 
serve as raw material for eventually forging a real article on the subject.

IMO Wikipedia is similar to specialized encyclopedias such as "the 
Encyclopedia of Railway Terms" or "the Encyclopedia of British Science 
Fiction", except that Wikipedia specializes in every subject 
simultaneously. We're the Borg of Encyclopedias - assimilate everything 
we can get our hands on. :)

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