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Deletionism and inclusionism in Wikipedia: Wikis


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Deletionism and inclusionism are opposing philosophies held by editors of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, regarding the criteria for including or deleting content.[1]

On Wikipedia, deletionists generally argue for the deletion of articles that they allege are short and poorly written,[2] unreferenced or referenced only by Web-based sources (especially blogs, forums, and personal web pages), that they claim fail the community standards of notability,[3][4] or that they say exclusively contain trivia or popular culture references, as well as of other types of articles deemed unencyclopedic.

Inclusionists call for retaining more content, for higher tolerance of "stub" articles, and for an acceptance of notable blogs and other Web-based sources.[3][5]



Due to concerns about vandalism and appropriateness of content, wikis require policies regarding inclusion.[6] Wikipedia has developed spaces for policy and conflict resolution regarding the disputes for individual articles.[7] These debates, which can be initiated by anyone,[8][9] take place on an "Articles for deletion" page.[10] Much discussion concerns not only the content of each article in question, but also "differing perspectives on how to edit an ideal encyclopedia."[11]

At the end of each debate, an administrator judges the community consensus. Articles that do not require debate can be flagged and deleted without debate by administrators.[12] If the administrator's decision is disputed, then the discussion can be taken to "deletion review," where the community discusses the administrator's decision. In controversial cases, the debates can spread to other places on the Internet.[13][14]

A 2006 estimate says that pages about Wikipedia governance and policy entries are one of the fastest-growing areas of Wikipedia and contain about one quarter of its content.[15]


The Association of Inclusionist Wikipedians and the Association of Deletionist Wikipedians were founded by administrators.[2] Each has a Wikimedia page listing their respective members, charters and principles. While written in humorous tones, they reveal the perceived importance of Wikipedia held by the members.[16]

Inclusionists may argue that the interest of a few is a sufficient condition for the existence of an article, since such articles are harmless and there is no restriction on space in Wikipedia.[3][5] Favoring the idiosyncratic and subjective,[11] an inclusionist slogan is "Wikipedia is not paper."[8][15]

On the other hand, deletionists favor objectivity and conformity,[11] holding that "Wikipedia is not Google,"[2] a "junkyard,"[8] or "a dumping ground for facts."[17] They argue that the interest of enough people is a necessary condition for article quality,[13] and articles about trivial subjects damage the credibility and future success of Wikipedia.[15] They advocate the establishment and enforcement of specific standards and policies[2] as a form of jurisprudence.[16]

According to veteran contributor Geoff Burling, newer members are less likely to have helped delete articles that should have been kept on hindsight, and so exercise less caution.[17] Journalism professor K.G. Schneider has identified the mentality of deletionism as having manifested once the emphasis of the encyclopaedia shifted from quantity to quality.[18]

A "Wikimorgue", in which all deleted articles and their edit histories would be retained, has been suggested as a means to provide greater transparency in the deletion process.[9][18] A new website, Deletionpedia, in fact now has a file of representative deleted pages.


Notable inclusionists

Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger identified himself as an inclusionist, excepting on topics pertaining to sexuality, for his Citizendium project.[19]

Prolific editor Simon Pulsifer advocates for wide coverage, and has employed the tactic of restoring a deleted article, hoping no one would notice.[13]

Andrew Lih, a deletionist-turned inclusionist, observes a cultural shift from Wikipedia's initial expansion in that it has become more cautious. He changed his position when an article he created about the social networking website Pownce was speedily deleted by another administrator as advertising.[13]


Between the two groups, various ideologies have been formed that are not mutually exclusive.[20]

In November 2004, editor Reene Sylverwind created the Association of Mergist Wikipedians to promote a middle ground between the two groups,[21] as not all deletion debates result in keeping or deleting the article entirely. A merge from one article to another is executed by moving the relevant content from the former to the latter, and redirecting the former to the latter. This is a sort of compromise[16] since the content still exists, satisfying the inclusionists, while the original article no longer exists by itself, satisfying the deletionists arguing against retention.

Another group between the two ideas is the "Association of Wikipedians Who Dislike Making Broad Judgments About the Worthiness of a General Category of Article, and Who Are in Favor of the Deletion of Some Particularly Bad Articles, but That Doesn't Mean They Are Deletionists".[22]


Documentarian Jason Scott has noted the large amount of wasted effort that goes into deletion debates.[23] Being called an inclusionist or deletionist can sidetrack the issue from the actual debate,[21] which may contribute to community disintegration,[3] restriction of information,[13] or a decrease in the rate of article creation that suggests a decrease in passion and motivation amongst editors.[24] Nevertheless, some have observed that the interaction between the two groups may actually result in an enhancement of overall quality of content.[25]

Novelist Nicholson Baker recounted how his initial article on the beat poet Richard Denner was deleted as "nonnotable", and criticised the behaviour of vigilante editors on Wikipedia in the New York Review of Books.

There are some people on Wikipedia now who are just bullies, who take pleasure in wrecking and mocking people's work – even to the point of laughing at non-standard 'Engrish'. They poke articles full of warnings and citation-needed notes and deletion prods till the topics go away."
—Nicholson Baker

Journalist Dick Pountain tested Baker's criticism and found it to be justified.[26]

Such debates have sparked the creation of websites critical of Wikipedia such as Wikitruth, which watches for articles in risk of deletion.[18] Wikinews editor Brian McNeil has been quoted as saying that every encyclopedia experiences internal battles, the difference being that those of Wikipedia are public.[13]

Notable debates

The notability of the South African restaurant Mzoli's was under scrutiny in Wikipedia as well as outside sources.

Specific cases of disputes between deletionists and inclusionists have attracted media coverage.

The article on South African restaurant Mzoli's was nominated for deletion after being created by Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales,[27] who said that supporters of deletion displayed "shockingly bad faith behavior." The article was kept after a multitude of editors helped work on it.[17] The consequence is that while inclusionists can say the deleting administrator crossed the line, deletionists can say that the process works as notability was established.[25]

In February 2007, the nomination of the Terry Shannon article for deletion was ridiculed by The Inquirer.[28]

The deletion of the biography of television anchor Susan Peters, the article for the Pownce website[3] and Ruby on Rails developer Why the lucky stiff also sparked controversy.[29]

Comic book and science fiction/fantasy novel writer Peter David, who helped cast actor Kristian Ayre in the Nickelodeon TV series he co-created, Space Cases, criticized the November 2009 deletion of Kristian Ayre's Wikipedia article,[30] and what he perceived as deletionism on the part of some of the project's editors, in his "But I Digress..." column in Comics Buyer's Guide #1663 (March 2010), remarking that "Wikipedia, which has raised the trivial to the level of art form, actually has cut-off lines for what's deemed important enough to warrant inclusion." In attacking the practice in general, David focused on the process by which the merits of Kristian Ayre's article were discussed prior to its deletion, and what he claimed were the inaccurate arguments that led to that result. Referring to the processes by which articles were judged suitable for inclusion as "nonsensical, inaccurate and flawed", David provided information about Ayre with the expressed purpose that it would lead to the article's recreation.[31] The article was recreated on January 20, 2010.[32]

Subjects of deleted articles

In July 2006, The Inquirer was offended by claims made by certain Wikipedia editors that it conspired with Everywhere Girl to create her phenomenon. They observed an apparent campaign to remove all references to Everywhere Girl on Wikipedia.[33] Later, they found it contrary to common sense that what became included on Wikipedia was their series of reports on the deletions of the Wikipedia article.[34]

In December 2006, writer and composer Matthew Dallman found that Wikipedia's biography of him was under debate, and became drawn to the vote counts. He was deciding to not participate on his own behalf due to Wikipedia's apparent dislike of self-promotion, saying that "It's like I'm on trial and I can't testify," though he would not be able to resist the urge.[10]

Andrew Klein was disappointed that the article on his webcomic Cake Pony was deleted, despite his claims that the "article contains valuable and factual information about a popular internet meme." He conceded that "it's their site and you've got to play by their rules."[10] Many other webcomic-related articles were deleted in fall 2006 to criticism by their artists.[9] and The Wall Street Journal writer Timothy Noah documented his "career as an encyclopedia entry," and questioned the need for rules on notability in addition to rules on verifiability.[5][35]

Scholarly research

At the 2005 Digital Arts and Culture Conference, the two groups were discussed as examples among Eventualism and Immediatism in a successful large-scale architecture of participation.[11]

The Institut national de recherche pédagogique (National Institute for Educational Research) in France, in case studies of Wikipedia, reported that while it was difficult to measure the influence of the groups as of April 2006, their existence is indicative of Wikipedia's internal dynamics consisting of multiple identities,[16] and may play progressively increasing roles.[20]

Deletion debates over an article on Enterprise 2.0 sparked a study by the Harvard Business School.[8]

In the journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, a study of Wikipedia social dynamics called inclusionism and deletionism the two most prominent associations within Wikipedia. They observe that users in the same role (administrator, etc.) may hold different perspectives, and that "the diversity of member [information quality] preferences and the low cost of forming or switching associations may encourage schism in an existing association or evolution of new groups." At the same time, the associations may help to better critique existing policies and to find and achieve points of convergence.[2]

Other language Wikipedias

Since each language Wikipedia sets its own notability standards, these have in some cases diverged substantially. The German Wikipedia is said by one journalist to be dominated by "exclusionists" whereas the English Wikipedia is "inclusionist";[36] although it is pointed out that the English Wikipedia has for several years required users to create accounts to create articles, which German Wikipedia does not.[37] A debate in late 2009 over inclusion of several articles led to criticism in the German blogosphere of such vehemence and volume that the German Wikimedia held a meeting with several bloggers and German Wikipedia administrators regarding the German Wikipedia's notability criteria, and issued a press statement.[36]


  1. ^ David E. Gumpert (2007-09-05). "A Case Study in Online Promotion". BusinessWeek. Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Besiki Stvilia, Michael B. Twidale, Linda C. Smith, and Les Gasser (2007). "Information Quality Work Organization in Wikipedia" (PDF). Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology: 16, 31. Retrieved 2008-01-24. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Ian Douglas (2007-10-11). "Wikipedia: an online encyclopedia torn apart"., The Age. Retrieved 2008-01-23.  Also published by The Age on 2007-10-13.
  4. ^ "Marked for Deletion". Weekend America (National Public Radio). 2007-01-20. Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  5. ^ a b c Nick Farrell (2007-02-26). "Hack got death threats from Wikipidiots". The Inquirer. Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  6. ^ Lowell Bryan, Mobilizing Minds: Creating Wealth from Talent in the 21st Century Organization, p. 223, McGraw-Hill (2007), ISBN 978-0071490825
  7. ^ Yochai Benkler, The Wealth of Networks, p. 73, Yale University Press (2006), ISBN 978-0300125771
  8. ^ a b c d Karim R. Lakhani and Andrew P. McAfee (2007). "Debates and Controversies in Wikipedia". Harvard Business School. Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  9. ^ a b c Nicholson Baker (2008-03-20). "The Charms of Wikipedia". The New York Review of Books 55 (4). Retrieved 2008-02-29. 
  10. ^ a b c David Segal (2006-12-03). "Look Me Up Under 'Missing Link': On Wikipedia, Oblivion Looms for the Non-Notable". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  11. ^ a b c d Scott Rettberg of The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey (2005). "All Together Now: Collective Knowledge, Collective Narratives, and Architectures of Participation" (PDF). Digital Arts and Culture Conference Proceedings. pp. 8. Retrieved 2008-01-24. 
  12. ^ Dirk Riehle (2006-08-23). "How and Why Wikipedia Works: An Interview with Angela Beesley, Elisabeth Bauer, and Kizu Naoko" (PDF). International Symposium on Wikis. Retrieved 2008-01-26. 
  13. ^ a b c d e f Tibbets, Janice (2007-12-27). "Wikipedia warriors hit delete". National Post. Archived from the original on 2008-02-04. Retrieved 2009-03-23. 
  14. ^ The Letterman (2006-07-19). "Let Cher Price join Everywhere Girl in the dustbin of history". The Inquirer. Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  15. ^ a b c "The battle for Wikipedia's soul". The Economist. 2008-03-06. Retrieved 2008-03-07. 
  16. ^ a b c d "L’édition de référence libre et collaborative : le cas de Wikipedia" (in French) (PDF). Les dossiers de la veille (Institut national de recherche pédagogique): 25. April 2006. Retrieved 2008-01-24. 
  17. ^ a b c David Sarno (2007-09-30). "Wikipedia wars erupt". Los Angeles Times.,0,344107.story?coll=la-home-center. Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  18. ^ a b c K.G. Schneider (2007-09-26). "Wikipedia's Awkward Adolescence". CIO. IDG. Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  19. ^ Nate Anderson (2007-02-25). "Citizendium: building a better Wikipedia". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  20. ^ a b Laure Endrizzi (2007-01-31) (in French) (DOC). La communauté comme auteur et éditeur: l'exemple de Wikipédia. Institut national de recherche pédagogique. pp. 7–8. Retrieved 2008-01-24. 
  21. ^ a b Nicole Gaudiano (2006-02-27). "Inside the world of Wikipedians, there's drama, politics and love". USA Today. Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  22. ^ Association of Wikipedians Who Dislike Making Broad Judgments About the Worthiness of a General Category of Article, and Who Are in Favor of the Deletion of Some Particularly Bad Articles, but That Doesn't Mean They Are Deletionists
  23. ^ Jason Scott (2006-04-08). "The Great Failure of Wikipedia" (transcript). Notacon 3. Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  24. ^ Konrad Lischka, October 12, 2007, Wikipedia-Leidenschaft kühlt ab,
  25. ^ a b Brock Read (2007-10-03). "A War of Words on Wikipedia". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  26. ^ Dick Pountain (August 2008). "The sometimes brave, sometimes brutal world of Web 2.0 self-censorship". PC Pro (166): 11. 
  27. ^ Douglas, Ian (2007-11-10). "Wikipedia: an online encyclopedia torn apart". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2009-02-06. 
  28. ^ Mike Magee (2007-02-22). "Terry Shannon nominated for Wikipedia deletion". The Inquirer. Archived from the original on 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  29. ^ Nat Torkington (2008-06-16). "On Wikipedia, storms, teacups, and _why's notability". O'Reilly Media. Retrieved 2008-07-19. 
  30. ^ Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Kristian Ayre
  31. ^ David, Peter, "Wiki wha?", Comics Buyer's Guide #1663 (March, 2010), p. 82
  32. ^ First version of recreated Kristian Ayre article; Wikipedia; January 20, 2010
  33. ^ Adamson Rust (2006-07-14). "Everywhere Girl: You're deleted". The Inquirer. Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  34. ^ "Wiki high executioner executes Everywhere Girl". The Inquirer. 2007-01-30. Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  35. ^ Timothy Noah (2007-02-25). "I'm Being Wiki-Whacked". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-01-23.  Also published by The China Post on 2007-03-03.
  36. ^ a b Kai Biermann, Die Zeit, 23 October 2009, Die Diktatur der Relevanz
  37. ^ Torsten Kleinz, c't, 30 October 2009, Wikipedia: Der Kampf um die Relevanz

Further reading

  • John Broughton (2008-01-25). The Missing Manual: Wikipedia. Pogue. ISBN 9780596515164. 

External links


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