[WikiEN-l] Trivia and popular culture sections

Peter Mackay peter.mackay at bigpond.com
Tue Feb 28 00:27:23 UTC 2006

> From: wikien-l-bounces at Wikipedia.org 
> [mailto:wikien-l-bounces at Wikipedia.org] On Behalf Of John Lee
> Peter Mackay wrote:
> >The keyword is "indiscriminate". "Unimportant" is nowhere merntioned.
> >Organising small but interesting facts into a trivia section, where 
> >there are enough to warrant doing so, is hardly indiscriminate.
> >  
> (This is not a real example; I just made it up off the top of 
> my head.) If the trivia section opens with a bullet-point 
> stating "Paul McCartney was introduced to drugs by his 
> dentist", has an entry in the middle along the lines of 
> "McCartney's fifth house was bought for X pounds sterling", 
> and ends with "Paul McCartney's dog, Martha, was the basis 
> for the Beatles' song 'Martha My Dear'", yeah, I'd say that's 
> pretty indiscriminate.  Of course people will say, "Well, 
> that's useful information!" Rightly so. But there's no reason 
> for it to stand alone in the trivia section. The information 
> on McCartney's drug behaviour can stand in a section on its 
> own (because you know, it's not like that's the only thing 
> that can be said about him and drugs). So can the real estate 
> purchase information, perhaps as part of a subsection on 
> McCartney's wealth and earnings. And the information on the 
> song inspiration? It doesn't even belong in the article 
> (although the part about the dog can easily be merged with a 
> section on personal life). The rest can go in the song 
> article instead.
> Information in trivia sections should not be there at all -- 
> it either belongs elsewhere in the article, or it does not 
> belong there at all. 
> While I accept that people will just add the trivia section 
> back (with more indiscriminate information), that doesn't 
> mean the section should be kept. Ideally the information in 
> it should be merged with another section of the article (or 
> used as the basis for a new section), or removed entirely. 
> I've never found a piece of trivia that didn't fall in either 
> of the latter categories.

I take your point, but it seems to me that it is more organised and
discriminating to put minor but interesting facts into a distinct trivia
section than to wedge them in to other parts of an article. One might well
spend two or three sentences tying these facts in smoothly so that the text
flows naturally.

Or, as articles evolve, a trivia section can be seen as a temporary
repository for details which are yet to be incorporated.

These facts are never going to go away, whether or not Wikipedia includes
them. There are enough people who care about trivia (and whole books have
been written about the manner in which the songs of the Beatles were
composed) that they will feel that an article on Paul McCartney is
incomplete without their favorite fact being included. It may well be a
piece of pop philosophy upon which they have founded their life. All you
need is love, you know, and though you may not agree, just how much of a
zealot should one be in making a bonfire of these little factoids?

It seems to me that many of the "Death to Trivia" crusaders are perpetuating
a small deception here (one of which you yourself are not guilty), by
deliberately including boring and useless information under the category of
trivia, portraying ALL such information as similar. Of course we don't want
to include every known, sourced, indisputable but minor fact about a person
or subject in an article. But not every minor fact is uninteresting or
useless. We should see ourselves as plucking out the diamonds from the
pebbles. We are an encyclopaedia, after all, trying to present a concise but
comprehensible picture, and while we are happy to direct students to the
mountain of pebbles in our sources, we need not cast every small rock aside.

Pete, student of [[pataphysics]]

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