40% of Wikipedia is under threat from deletionists


I racked up nearly 250 edits on Wikipedia, but over the last couple years, the deletionists became such a battle that it’s killed my enthusiasm. Most of the editors there are those old men (old at heart, at least) yelling at the kids on their lawn. Unless there is a change of heart at the top, Wikipedia will be moribund within a decade.


Circa 2005, there seemed to be a Wikipedia article about each individual Pokemon. It took way too long for them to become deletionism casualties.


Considering rule 34, I’m not certain whether you’re agreeing with me or not…

  1. An editor, usually a woman or a minority group member, writes a stub for a requested article, including references and assertion of notability.
  1. That editor leaves the project, typically because of harassment or because someone deleted one of their articles.

Deletionists vs. Inclusionists is a discussion as old as Wikipedia itself. Is there one article for all Pokemons, or does every Pokemon need its own article? Does Kate Middleton get an article? Does Kate Middleton’s Wedding dress get an article? Does the artisan who made the buttons on Kate Middleton’s Wedding Dress get an article? Does the button get an article?

It’s two poles of a structural discussion that can never fully be resolved.

To link this with racism and harassement like the phenomena were the same thing, and label deletionists as misogynist and racist, seems inaccurate and misleading.

Of course there are racist deletionists, and deletionist misogynists. But there’s also good reasons to be a deletionist that have nothing to do with race or gender.

Wikipedia attempts to be an encyclopedia. An encyclopedia is the attempt to document and organize human knowledge. Knowledge that has not been organized is not an encyclopedia, but a message board.

Second, anyone can join Wikipedia. So a system where everyone can join anonymously is trying to agree on how to organize all of human knowledge. Reaching some kind of consensus is bound to be messy, and to stay messy forever.

So if you want to make Wikipedia, as a system more aware of race and gender issues (which I support) or more inclusionist (in the Wikipedia sense of the term, which I not necessarily support)?

I think the answer is to encourage people to join Wikipedia, rather than discouraging them by portraying it as a hotbed of racism and misogyny


But there’s still the legacy issue of the old guard that will hold back the activity of the new, less experienced, and certainly less influential. And I can almost surmise it’s makeup is white and/or male. But the real result is these deletions unfavoring minority voices and small issues, that should still exist. How things happen now is what is wrong, which is pushed by those still in charge.


Read the thread.

Pretty much everyone posting here did join Wikipedia…and then left in disgust, driven off by the toxic culture of the incumbents.

It is not the job of women and minorities to put up with that crap in order to make yet another futile attempt to fix Wikipedia. Clean your own damn house.


So I read the thread. 34 users are in it. Only four or five mentioned leaving Wikipedia:

  • Tim Wayne can’t be bothered to document ownership of the photos he uploads
  • ActionAbe left after a dispute of the sourcability of “World Nut Daily”, and if he used those word’s I’m not surprised that the discussion did not go well
  • clayton_coffman left because “if adding 500 true words to a very minor article was going to involve some kind of discussion … I don’t have time for it”.
  • atl “only ever tried to meaningfully edit three articles … and promptly gave up trying”.
  • over_it “racked up nearly 250 edits on Wikipedia, but over the last couple years, the deletionists became such a battle that it’s killed my enthusiasm”.


There is nothing in this thread like the things you claim, you just make shit up as you see fit!

It’s not the job of a random Wikipedia editor like me to defend the project against accusations of people like you who just pull things out of thin air that have no relation to reality whatsoever.

Get your own damn facts straight and do not accuse me of “not reading the thread”! What a fucking post-truth waste of my time!


There’s also another thread about this, too.

ETA: I didn’t think it worth putting my 5c in again, as I’m pretty over doing anything for them. There are other places that are more welcoming to volunteers.

But it’s pretty easy to get stuff from that thread mixed up with this one. Perils of having two very similar subjects on the go at the same time. :slight_smile:


I edit a lot on Wikipedia. I have to defend what I edit constantly. Sure it’s an investment in time but I consider it worthwhile.
Having said that, I must agree that there are serious issues. Definition of Notability is a major one. One article I created was based heavily on three books that addressed small team military operations by the South African Special Forces in the 1980s. These three books are the only resources available on the topic as they were written by the people who took part in those operations which were classified as Top Secret at the time. Result? Speedy deletion. Real argument ? There were no online news articles to use as “sources”.


It sounds like the problem is that there are no criteria for speedy deletion/reversion. When I make an edit, especially a “white-out,” it’s always accompanied by a rationale. If entire articles — and their histories —can be singlehandedly deleted without explanation, that’s an architectural problem that needs to be addressed.

But as long as my picture stays up as an example of a Devilock I’m happy

ETA: Regarding porn-related articles, bear in mind that Jimmy Wales got his start running Bomis, which was (is?) primarily a porn aggregator and search engine. There was other stuff on there for appearances’ sake, but mainly porn. Not that there’s anything wrong with porn, but it’s not like he started as an academic librarian.


And so do I. What do people expect? That Wikipedia should reach a point where final truth is accomplished and all disputes on all topics are resolved? Of course you are going to get frustrated!

Deletionism / Inclusionism is pretty much orthogonal to racism and sexism. Of course there are connections, and I support bringing attention to those, and they must be opposed. But it is relevant to other topics, and more often than not it has no relation to racism or sexism, and that’s the one thing the OP gets wrong. Think of

  • the car nut who wants an article on his custom job
  • the WW2 nut who creates dozens of articles about Wehrmacht corporals that contain not much more than date and place of birth and death
  • the internet startup that has two employees, has existed for three weeks, and spent two of those vocally demanding its rightful place on Wikipedia.

Extremist inclusionists want to keep them all. Extremist exclusionists get sneaky about deleting perfectly good articles, like pointed out by the OP. Sexist and racist exclusionists get sneaky about deleting good article with their bias on race and gender making the selection. This is a constant process in which it is worth taking a stand, but it is not a fundamental flaw of Wikipedia, at least not in a greater degree than in society as a whole.


To be fair, I don’t think I’ve seen anyone suggesting that, in either of the two discussions [seriously, is it worth merging them?] That’s not really a fair representation there

They are effectively suggesting that the balance between the two extremes you cite seems awry and is (in general and in specific examples) driving new and experienced editors away.

How representative those examples are? That’s a different question, but I know that recruitment and retention is an issue that surfaces in the site itself, so that gives some weight, to an admitted outsider.

(And also talking around the social and organisational issues related to that, because that’s always interesting. :slight_smile: )

[Edit to correct: ‘taking’ to ‘talking’. Because Google Keyboard]


@eraserbones That’s a very good point about the the cost of stubs and ‘bad’ articles in the upkeep of dealing with dead links and vandalism, which isn’t often taken into account (Thanks)

Non-loaded question (promise :slight_smile:): Is there the idea over there that site then that there’s an effective maximum size to the project, or is recruitment/and scaling seen as the issue? (Or something else?)

I’m wondering because it occurs to me that this gets seen as a ‘newcomer unfriendliness’ issue or the result of organisational politicking (small P), but wonder instead if there’s a social and/or group structure limit being reached, where more recruitment wouldn’t help, or be actually counterproductive?

(The idea of practical maximum sizes of social groupings and organisational cohesion, is fascinating stuff. Well, to me.)


Stop talking about vanadium-related substances, or my master plan to TAKE OVER THE WORLD will be ruined!


I don’t want to wind anyone up here, but seriously… if you rage quit as a result of having to defend some information, then that’s an indication that the information isn’t worth fighting for.

How else is Wikipedia supposed to function without kicking the tyres on new contributions? I’m not defending thoughtless deletionists, but I most certainly am defending their right to challenge, and if necessary delete, stuff.


I am not on Wikipedia, nor have I left in disgust. But if this is typical of the community’s attitude towards people who want to volunteer their time to improve Wikipedia, it’s no wonder that some are complaining that it isn’t a welcoming place or that it feels like a waste of effort.


I was part of a successful effort to save Kim Cascone’s page. His article on the aesthetics of glitch is required reading for music undergrads into computer stuff. I’m amazed we won because when many academics showed up to support keeping it, we were dismissed as SPAs and sock puppets.

One think wikipedia does try to do is organise events where women and poc spend an afternoon making stubs. Being associated with these events theoretically protects the pages, but the wikipedia volunteers that came to help at the one I was doing were the blokiest white blokes who ever bloked and wasted a lot of the women’s time.


There are as many opinions as there are editors. There are relatively few voices saying “We’re done, no more articles,” but there certainly are established editors who are generally hostile to newly arriving volunteers, which is effectively the same thing.

In terms of ‘newcomer unfriendliness’ – research has convinced me that the problem really is just a small number of assholes more than any interesting abstract macro group dynamic. Obviously ‘keeping jerks from ruining the internet’ is a problem which the whole Internet continues to struggle with and Wikipedia is no exception :frowning:


I was replying to someone who was discouraging people from participating by blatantly misrepresenting the contents of this very thread.


Hi Andrea,
I caught this article well after it was published, so apologies for being late to the conversation.

I’m a little confused, and rather disheartened, to your approach to the subject of Wikipedia and the culture of volunteers that support the projects.

Do you want to see the movement succeed or are you so frustrated that you wish to see it expire? It would help me to understand the last few articles and what you hope to accomplish.

Perhaps there’s an opportunity to have further discourse and understanding, but at the moment it seems that you are very upset and not willing to engage with folks. I understand that, and I hope that one day we can have an open discussion. In case you haven’t seen it, Wikipedians have reached out to you on your talk page asking for a dialog.

As a long time contributor with over 50,000 edits who left the project (I’m assuming unhappily) you have experiences and feelings regarding the community and the unfortunately permissible behavior of some of its inhabitants. I’m sorry. I could regale you with efforts underway to address harassment, but I don’t think it would do much good and you can seek them out on your own.

I’m sorry you left unsatisfied - as many others have expressed with their own experiences here. That sucks and I understand why people feel the way they do. I work with the communities every day in my professional role, and in my volunteer time help support the Wikimedia movement and other open communities. This stuff is important. I thank you for bring attention to the issues. I politely ask you to please consider the impact your writing has on improving the involvement of folks in the movement - that is, if you want to see it succeed. :slight_smile:

While it’s not a big deal, when I mentioned the total count of stub articles to you in the other thread, I saw it as a positive. “Hey, look how many stubs exist/have survived.” You could have easily titled this article “100% of Wikipedia articles under threat from deletionists” and it still would have been true! :slight_smile:

Take care.

Disclosure: I work for the Wikimedia Foundation, but this post is written in my personal capacity and I do not speak for the foundation or anyone else within.