[WikiEN-l] deletionism in popular culture

Gwern Branwen gwern0 at gmail.com
Fri Oct 2 19:33:29 UTC 2009

On Fri, Oct 2, 2009 at 3:10 PM, Charles Matthews <charles.r.matthews at ntlworld.com> wrote:
> David Goodman wrote:
>> The deletion of improvable articles
>> because the small number of participants at AfD  who are interested
>> and willing to rescue them is one of the reasons for people losing the
>> interest in Wikipedia.
> Counterfactually, suppose you had a team of "universal" researchers you
> could assign to work on articles. What relative weight would you give to
> various types of work? Out of these, (a) filling in popular redlinks,
> (b) working over topic lists from other reference works, (c)
> fact-checking and referencing long-standing articles on the site that
> really are not shaping up, (d) researching for articles where the
> initial submission was clearly under-researched, which seem to you most
> important factors in developing the site as a whole? Which, for example,
> are going to do most to cure systemic bias? Which are going to help our
> reputation in the academic world? Which are going to do most for general
> reliability? And which (your point) could have the most impact on the
> community?
> I kind of feel most thoughtful people long-term on the site have voted
> with their feet on these issues. It would be surprising, of course, if
> self-assignment of tasks also corresponded to any particular person's
> view of the correct allocation of priorities. (Only one of the 20 items
> culled from AfD has any historical content, the foolish [[shield-mate]],
> only one takes us outside the Anglosphere to the 90% of the world's
> population who don't think in English, and so on. You may well be right
> that something could be salvaged in some cases by good research. Which
> is why I'd like to see the "cost" of diverting people onto such work as
> part of the assessment.)
> Charles

I realize it isn't one of your options, but if I really had such a crack team? I'd dispatch them to AfD. A crack team can only do so much, and is limited. But if each member can be responsible for making an editor's experience better, for being the cause of an editor staying and not leaving in a huff because some people unfamiliar with his pet subject didn't like the few sources he had thrown together, then that's a big multiplier.

AfD is exactly the area where a crack researcher can zoom over, see what 'looks' valid yet not very good, and drop some 5000lb bombs of references and citations down onto the delete votes.

All the other areas are ones where effort would be repaid with no multipliers. In a way, if an article hasn't been created on an old topic yet (your red links, your topic lists), then that alone shows it isn't important. Likewise, if a longstanding article needs work, then doesn't its longstandingness show that it isn't apparently all *that* awful because someone would've fixed it up if it was so bad and they cared about it? Worse is Better. Nobody will think better of Wikipedia if some old article gets a dozen references and some tags removed. But the editors of an article *will* remember it if an angel swooped in and saved their article and laid the groundwork for improvements.

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