[Wikipedia-l] Deletion of Articles with No Content

Michael R. Irwin mri_icboise at surfbest.net
Mon Aug 26 03:46:34 UTC 2002

Toby Bartels wrote:
> mirwin wrote:
> >Fredbauder wrote:
> >>Ok, Yes, Toby's suggestion that an article with a good title but no content
> >>should be deleted is good policy.
> >It seems like silly makework to me.
> >The article will be recreated again anytime anyone
> >clicks on one of the links leading to it.
> These links will be "?" (or highlighted) if the page is deleted,
> so people following them should be intending to write articles.
> If they do write content, then that's great!
> I don't mind contentless pages being recreated as contentful articles.
> >If it is a good title then it is an invitation
> >for anyone who encounters it to add to it.
> For somebody interested in writeing content (which is what we want),
> I think that a link of "?" is more inviting than a non"?" link.
> If I know about a subject, then I'll follow "?" links but not non"?" ones.
> If the non"?" link is to a contentless page, then this means
> that I won't be writing articles that I otherwise would write!

Ok.  I can see this might be a problem for writers oriented
towards writing complete new stubs or articles.  Perhaps a
list article page inversely sorted on article length such that 
the shortest show up first and the longest last would help 
address this.  This may be a current capability on the stub
page, I have not been there for a while.

I think we also want tweaking experts and readers who will
occasionally do some research and drop a sentence, paragraph,
definition, or lengthy rambling explanation that can be tweaked
into quality content.  A thousand readers occasionally tweaking
equals how many dedicated Wikipedians?  A lot of highly educated
people are also fairly busy.  While they may not choose to be
regular contributors, the value of their tweaks should add up
or something is seriously wrong with our project model.

<snip agreement on poor titles>

> >I think that having the Wikipedia Guard or Militia
> >routinely deleting empty good titled articles may
> >only slow down the growth in breadth and depth of
> >the Wikipedia.   Some people may like organizing
> >the link structures and establishing good initial titles
> >and interconnections.   Why should this contribution
> >be routinely deleted?   How much subsequent work is
> >then lost from contributors who while browsing may
> >choose to add an easy paragraph but who will not
> >undertake an entire stub and the effort required
> >to link it appropriately into an entire encyclopedia?
> I really have no idea how you think that this will work.
> Do you have examples on Wikipedia?
> (If I need to look in page histories to see
> how this worked in the past, then that's fine too.)

Some use the term twikification or wikification when they
do a concise edit.  Tracing these from recent changes
may illustrate the concept if you find a stub that has
just become active or controversial.  

Perhaps the index pages in the tree branch {main page},
{technology},{space technology},{propulsion} would be
illustrative.   I added space technology and alphabetized
technology, IIRC approximately 6 months ago when I first
arrived.  They have been slowly undergoing tweaks
since then but are still pretty poor stubs.  They do
however provide a substrate for tweaks to settle upon.

Personally, I would hope that one day these are solid
multi page essays that are standalone informative overviews 
with links and indexes to sub branches and mazes of detailed 
articles at appropriate detail which are useful to practicing 
professionals, casual browsers, and grade school 
students alike.   Extreme success would be when the 
material is organized such that a glossary of specialized
jargon is easily available; summaries at various levels of
detail make sense to space enthusiasts, newcomers, and other 
field specialists; and detailed state of the art information 
is also accessible on demand without impacting the casual 
reader or beginner.

I think it will be failure if the articles remain so
general and static that specialists/enthusiasts set up 
their own specialized Wikipedia (or equivalent) rather than fill 
in this one with deep dense branches of relevant detail organized
such that all users can find an appropriate level of
detail when they need or want it.

I suspect (but certainly cannot prove) that if Wikipedia
is: not a dictionary, not a tutorial, not a place for
discussion of advanced material, not a place for video
addicts, not a place for resolution of controversy and
neutral presentation of all views, not an etc. etc. then 
it will have a hard time becoming and remaining an in depth, 
broad, reliable Wikipedia.

> >Some areas of the Wikipedia already feel pretty
> >circular and concise.   They have no sloppy or poor titles
> >hanging out for random fortuitous contributions from
> >readers.   They have a concise complete feel to them
> >that screams static encyclopedic overview with no place
> >for further detail.
> But I think that links to articles with no content ''adds'' to this problem.
> When the link doesn't have "?", things look even more complete.
> But they are not complete, and "?"s will make things look properly incomplete!
> However, I do agree with you that we have this problem in some places.
> People don't follow [[Wikipedia:Always leave something undone]] enough
> (a sin that I've been guilty of too often in the past).

Perhaps as upper levels of summary information get fairly
complete the problem will resolve itself a bit.  The incomplete
or poor articles should start concentrating at the leaf nodes 
farthest from the main page entry point since they get the least 
traffic. Obviously I am making a few assumptions:

1.  Most readers start at the main page and work towards the
level of detail they desire.   The search function may break
this assumption, particularly with younger readers trained
in computer use rather than use of indexes or tables of content.

2.  Most readers are tweaking at least occasionally as they work
through the material. 

3.  Wikipedia is regularly used by a large diverse 
group of knowledgeable readers.

<snip wild ideas>

> Do you know how to write the software for this?
Very vaguely.  Certainly not in PHP and mySQL at the
moment.  Most of my education and professional experience
has emphasized top down design methods not well suited to 
prevalent open/free source methodologies.  I am way too
lazy by both training and inclination to design/code a feature
or patch (after learning enough PHP, SQL, etc. and setting
up a development/test system) just to see if it gets thrown 
away or integrated.

So far I have been pretty lazy about writing entire articles
or stubs as well.  Hence my interest in twikification.

Twikification may be critical to gradual engagement of some
top engineering talent in some projects in which I have 
some interest.  Few top notch engineers can resist quickly
annotating a design with random stray thoughts to show how smart 
and qualified they are but few will do a complete design without 
professional compensation.   Most will back up their opinions
with some calculations if constructively engaged in conversation 
about the design detail of interest.  Accrued twikification will 
certainly not complete space technology projects by itself.  Might 
bring development costs down quite a bit if implemented well in
technology efforts.  Might make some types of projects feasible
for small companies who cannot afford to have thousands of specialized
engineers on paid standby for consultation about esoteric details.

Usenet is a poor medium for this type of conversation.  The
knowledge and effort does not accrue or coalesce into anything
useful beyond self study question and answer reading material.

> I think that we need to deal with how [[Special:Mostwanted]]
> works now, or can be made to work easily.
I agree but I think we should not negatively impact some
contribution approaches for the benefit of others.

> I'm not against your idea; it's a longer term project, that's all.
Understood.  Personally, I think SVG integration or some other
graphics standard that is wikifiable should be a much higher
priority than the wild ideas I proposed.

Mike Irwin

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