Wikipedia:Notability/Historical/Arguments

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A topic has notability if it is known outside a narrow interest group or constituency, or should be because of its particular importance or impact. It is an extension of the notion of prominence for biographical articles. It differs, however, from fame and importance; while all "famous" and "important" subjects are notable, not all notable subjects are famous or important.

Currently, there are a number of consensual guidelines regarding notability within a limited subject field, such as for musicians, for characters from fiction, and for websites – and some others are under development. See the template to the right. An article's failure to meet these suggested requirements is frequently used as an argument to delete said article on Wikipedia:Articles for deletion.

Lack of notability is often designated by the phrase "non-notable" or the abbreviation "nn". Whenever using the term or its abbreviation, please explain why you consider the subject to be not notable (e.g. "has written a book but it was never published").

It is the opinion of some editors that this is what is meant by Wikipedia is not an indiscriminate collection of information. Many editors also believe that it is a fair test of whether a subject has achieved sufficient external notice to ensure that it can be covered from a neutral point of view based on verifiable information from reliable sources, without straying into original research.

Definition

Notability is sometimes used as a synonym for verifiability, although others disagree. Notability to many is related to importance. Articles should be relevant to a reasonable number of people. Reliable sources may indicate the seemingly trivial comic book is more notable than the much more important human tragedy. Notability is sometimes related to conflict of interest or self-promotion. Wikipedia should not contain any material that presents the appearance of being intended to in any way promote the personal notoriety of the author, or one of the close family members or associates of the author.

Much of the debate about notability comes from varying definitions of what notability is. If an editor describes an article as non-notable, he or she may mean that it is original research, unverifiable, or self-promotion—all of which are criteria for deletion. If an editor says that a "non-notable" article should remain, he or she may mean that its relative obscurity does not make it unencyclopedic or preclude it in any other way.

Notability and deletion

It has been argued that lack of "notability" is not a criterion for deletion, because (among other things) this isn't specifically stated in the deletion policy; and since Wikipedia is not paper and (in theory) has no size limits, there's no reason why Wikipedia shouldn't include "everything" that fits in with our other criteria, such as verifiability and no original research.

However, since Wikipedia is not a bureaucracy, there is not a strictly limited set of criteria for deletion. Articles are deleted daily on grounds of notability, and this has been common practice since this essay was written. For some reason, "non-notable" articles (or sections of articles – which is less visible, because no formal process exists there) were being removed with zeal.

Arguments for deleting non-notable articles

Non-notable topics do not belong

Since Wikipedia is not a primary or secondary source—much less a vehicle for publication of direct observation—non-notable subjects (in terms of the verifiability and neutrality of the commentators) do not belong in it. Some have said, "Why not write an article on your next-door neighbor's dog, as long as it's verifiable and NPOV?" If the latter is true, then the dog must have attracted some attention from outsiders and hence it is not subject to the concept of notability.

The word notable is often used as a synonym of "unique" or "newsworthy." Many articles are deleted because the people discussed are non-notable. Sometimes, there is some content in a non-notable article that can be merged into another article. For example, If a British boy wins an award from his police station for creating a new organization scheme for the British Police Cadets, he may write an article about himself. It may be judged that the new organizational scheme was notable while the details of the award ceremony and the identity of the boy were non-notable. In this case, the notable content in the article on the British boy can be merged into a larger article on cadet schemes in Britain.

There is a precedent

Many people already act on the assumption that notability is a requirement for inclusion, although their individual definitions may not be common across the group.

Subjectivity is not a problem

The subjective nature of notability is merely an issue of defining a guideline for it. When people mislabel an article as "non-notable", they can easily be convinced/outweighed by more knowledgeable editors. AfD is a discussion, after all.

Notability is not necessarily subjective

If a subject is not the subject of non-trivial independent coverage, for example feature articles in the mainstream press, how can we verify that it is being covered neutrally? For some editors non-notable is a shorthand for subjects that have not generated enough independent interest to permit of the existence of a verifiable, neutral article, with reliable sources (although some take the idea to be a distinct branch from these policies). There is a difference between an obscure but important and verifiable topic and a topic which is of importance only to its creator, and which therefore has received no external scrutiny.

Arguments against deleting articles for non-notability

There is a lack of objective criteria

There are no objective criteria for notability besides the Search Engine Test (note: many editors do not consider those tests to be objective or reliable), meaning that individual assessments of notability can display systemic bias. "Non-notable" is generally a non-NPOV designation. The person who authored the article probably believes that the topic is notable enough to be included.

Existing rules are sufficient

The no original research rule keeps out most of what is unencyclopedic. The (possibly vague) concept of "notability" is not needed as long as the verifiability rules are strictly applied.

Valid content is deleted

The recent fundraising page says, "Imagine a world in which every person has free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That's what we're doing." We are not doing that, indeed we are actively preventing that, if we are deleting articles solely due to their obscurity. "Detailed obscure topics hurt no-one because it's pretty hard to find them by accident, and Wikipedia isn't paper" (from Wikipedia:Importance). Further, currently obscure, or seemingly obscure, subjects may garner more popular interest at a later date. In such a case, deleted articles will constitute a loss of valuable (and perhaps, in the transitory world of the internet, irreproducible) information.

Obscure content isn't harmful

Wikipedia is not paper and (practically) has no size limits, and so should include "everything" that fits within its other criteria. There is room for articles on any and every verifiable subject. There is no harm in including an obscure topic, because if it is truly non-notable, people simply won't search for it or link to it. It will not create a significant server load as such.

Deletion reform is necessary

A policy of "delete if and only if the article is not verifiable in a reliable source" would make it far easier to decide borderline cases and would turn AfD into a more constructive process, which would make Wikipedia articles more reliable by adding references where possible. The problem with writing "Delete, non-notable" is not about whether the articles should be in Wikipedia, but that it is a quick phrase that does not tell another person why the article is non-notable (or what definition the person is using in this particular context).

Notability cannot be measured for some historical and international topics

Because there is no simple measure of notability, many subjects that are historically notable, or notable in regions with little internet presence, are deleted based on the modern test of "I can't find information about them online". In addition, subjects from regions that do not use the Latin alphabet may have content online in their native language, but little or no content if searched for with the Latin version of their name. Most historical persons of note, in their time, do not have information online, because Google is not the repository of all knowledge. An online search, for historical persons of note, is biased toward modern persons, therefore should not be the criteria for determination of notability.

Specialist topics are often not notable in the sense of being well known

Many specialist topics are not "known outside a narrow interest group" (as stated by the definition of notability at the top of this essay) but are still perfectly reasonable encyclopedia topics. For example, Darboux's theorem is not generally well known (nor does it need to be generally well known) but it is of great importance to people interested in differential geometry. Excluding it because it is non-notable would make Wikipedia less than the "sum of all human knowledge". Even asking the average editor to figure out whether it is notable within the field of differential geometry is unreasonable as those who are outside that narrow interest group have no reference from which to make that judgement.

See also

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