[Wikipedia-l] Do we need templates ?

Larry Sanger lsanger at nupedia.com
Sun May 6 16:23:05 UTC 2001

From: "Krzysztof P. Jasiutowicz" <kpjas at promail.pl>
> Do we need templates of pages ?
> Groups of pages - rock bands, biographies, film entries share common
> features and therefore want some kind of templates.
> Pages of the same category edited by different people tend to follow
> sometimes incompatible patterns or disagree with each other.

One of the reasons that Wikipedia *works*--why it is developing so quickly
and is so attractive to contributors (compelling, one might say...) is that
anyone can come in and contribute in practically any fashion.  Instigating
templates has a number of implications for how we might begin to think of
Wikipedia: it would become a collection of standardized information rather
than a collection of information that people just happen to feel inspired to
input.  Who is interested in inputting "standardized information"?  Maybe
some people, but surely not nearly as many as those who are interested in
inputting whatever information they know.

Suppose we were to require (somehow) that everyone writing about the
countries of the world input the information in exactly the format of the
CIA Factbook.  Who, honestly, would *want* to do that?  And on the other
hand, who would want to contribute a lot of generally accurate, useful
information that will eventually add up to weighty, detailed articles, not
necessarily all in the same format?

Academia is sometimes compared to the marketplace of ideas.  That's also an
apt description of Wikipedia at present: it's unregulated (except for some
basic ground rules), and anyone can come in and "set up shop" (write an
article), but other "business owners" (contributors) can "compete" (improve
the article) according to their understanding of what the facts are, what
the best way to express them is, etc.  Competition improves articles.
Regulation tends to stifle free competition.

Eventually, I suspect, we're going to have huge amounts of information, and
it will be possible for people to go in and render related entries in a
similar format.  It's generally better to impose order *after* creation, in
a way that reflects the natural categories of things as information is
given.  That's how good researchers work, by the way.  They observe the
data, or read the literature, very broadly and in-depth, letting it "speak
for itself" as much as possible, and without trying to impose theories on
the facts before all the available facts are in.  In a similar way, in a
constantly-growing, constantly-improving encyclopedia, why not just let
people add whatever information they want, and when it's reached a certain
level of maturity, only then start imposing some uniformity on the way
similar information is presented?

All this being said, there's nothing stopping you from proposing on the wiki
some templates that you would like others to follow (without presenting them
as "The Wikipedia Format for X-type Articles"), and maybe Wikipedia will be
better for it.

That's my way of thinking at present, though my mind could certainly be


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