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Deletionism and inclusionism in Wikipedia

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Deletionism and inclusionism are opposing philosophies that largely developed and came to public notice within the context of the community of editors of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia The terms are connected to views on the appropriate scope of the encyclopedia, and the appropriate point for a topic to be allowed to "include" an encyclopedia article ie, "inclusion" or "delete" the article ie, "deletion" Inclusionism and deletionism are broad terms falling within a spectrum of views The concepts are closely related to Wikipedia's concept of notability, with deletionists and inclusionists taking a strong or relaxed stance on "notability" accordingly Many users do not identify strongly with either position

"Deletionists" are proponents of selective coverage and removal of articles seen as unnecessary or highly substandard Deletionist viewpoints are commonly motivated by a desire that Wikipedia be focused on and cover significant topics – along with the desire to place a firm cap upon proliferation of promotional use seen as abuse of the website, trivia, and articles which are of no general interest, lack suitable source material for high quality coverage, or are too short or otherwise unacceptably poor in quality

"Inclusionists" are proponents of broad retention, including retention of "harmless" articles and articles otherwise deemed substandard to allow for future improvement Inclusionist viewpoints are commonly motivated by a desire to keep Wikipedia broad in coverage with a much lower entry barrier for topics covered – along with the belief that it is impossible to tell what knowledge might be "useful" or productive, that content often starts poor and is improved if time is allowed, that there is effectively no incremental cost of coverage, that arbitrary lines in the sand are unhelpful and may prove divisive, and that goodwill requires avoiding arbitrary deletion of others' work Some extend this to include allowing a wider range of sources such as notable blogs and other websites

To the extent that an official stance exists at 2010, it is that "There is no practical limit to the number of topics it can cover" but "there is an important distinction between what can be done, and what should be done", the latter being the subject of the policy "What Wikipedia is not" The policy concludes "Consequently, this policy is not a free pass for inclusion"


  • 1 Background
    • 11 Positions
    • 12 Responses
  • 2 Criticism
  • 3 Notable debates
    • 31 Notable advocates and analysts
  • 4 Subjects of deleted articles
  • 5 Scholarly research
  • 6 Other language Wikipedias
  • 7 External initiatives to salvage the deletions
  • 8 See also
  • 9 References
  • 10 Further reading
  • 11 External links


Due to concerns about vandalism and appropriateness of content, most wikis require policies regarding inclusion Wikipedia has developed spaces for policy and conflict resolution regarding the disputes for individual articles These debates, which can be initiated by anyone, take place on an "Articles for deletion" page often referred to by editors as an AfD Much discussion concerns not only the content of each article in question, but also "differing perspectives on how to edit an ideal encyclopedia"

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 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

A 2006 estimate was that pages about Wikipedia governance and policy entries were one of the fastest-growing areas of Wikipedia and contained about one quarter of its content


Association of Inclusionist Wikipedians AIW Association of Deletionist Wikipedians

The "Association of Inclusionist Wikipedians" and the "Association of Deletionist Wikipedians" were founded by administrators 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

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 Favoring the idiosyncratic and subjective, an inclusionist slogan is "Wikipedia is not paper"

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

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 Journalism professor KG Schneider has identified the mentality of deletionism as having manifested once the emphasis of the encyclopaedia shifted from quantity to quality


Deletionpedia logo

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 A website, Deletionpedia, in fact now has a file of representative deleted pages from February to September 2008

In an effort to promote a middle ground between the two philosophies, the "Association of Mergist Wikipedians" was created in November 2004, emphasizing the possibility of merging articles together as an alternative to both outright deletion of content and the retention of separate articles for less important subjects 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


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

Startup accelerator and angel investor Y Combinator co-founder Paul Graham has written on a page listing "Startup Ideas We'd Like to Fund" that deletionists rule Wikipedia:

Deletionists rule Wikipedia Ironically, they're constrained by print-era thinking What harm does it do if an online reference has a long tail of articles that are only interesting to a few people, so long as everyone can still find whatever they're looking for There is room to do to Wikipedia what Wikipedia did to Britannica

Novelist Nicholson Baker recounted how an article on the beat poet Richard Denner was deleted as "nonnotable", and criticised the behaviour of vigilante editors on Wikipedia in New York Review of Books The article has since been restored

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

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

In 2009, Wikipedia began to see a reduction in the amount of edits to the site, which some called a result of user frustration due to excessive deletionism

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, who said that supporters of deletion displayed "shockingly bad faith behavior" The article was kept after a multitude of editors helped work on it 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

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

The deletion of the biography of television anchor Susan Peters, the article for the Pownce website and Ruby programmer Why the lucky stiff also sparked controversy

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 Ayre's Wikipedia biography, 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 Ayre's biography were discussed prior to its deletion, and what he described as 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 The article was recreated on January 20, 2010

Notable advocates and analysts

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

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

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 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

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

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" Many other webcomic-related articles were deleted in fall 2006 to criticism by their artists

Slatecom 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

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

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, and may play progressively increasing roles

Deletion debates over an article on Enterprise 20 sparked a study by the Harvard Business School

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 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

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"; 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 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

External initiatives to salvage the deletions

  • Deletionpedia is an archive of about 62,679 pages deleted between February and September 2008 which have been deleted from the English-language Wikipedia

See also

  • Criticism of Wikipedia § Notability of article topics
  • Digital preservation
  • Systemic bias in Wikipedia


  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; Les Gasser 2007 "Information Quality Work Organization in Wikipedia" PDF Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology: 16, 31 doi:101002/asi20813 Retrieved 2008-01-24 
  3. ^ a b c d e Ian Douglas 2007-10-11 "Wikipedia: an online encyclopedia torn apart" telegraphcouk, The Age London Archived from the original on 2007-12-28 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. ^ a b c "What Wikipedia is Not" July 20, 2010 
  7. ^ Lowell Bryan, Mobilizing Minds: Creating Wealth from Talent in the 21st Century Organization, p 223, McGraw-Hill 2007, ISBN 978-0-07-149082-5
  8. ^ Yochai Benkler, The Wealth of Networks, p 73, Yale University Press 2006, ISBN 978-0-300-12577-1
  9. ^ a b c d Karim R Lakhani; Andrew P McAfee 2007 "Debates and Controversies in Wikipedia" Harvard Business School Retrieved 2008-01-23 
  10. ^ a b c d Baker, Nicholson 9 April 2008 "How I fell in love with Wikipedia" The Guardian Retrieved 8 March 2012 
  11. ^ 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 
  12. ^ 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 p 8 Retrieved 2008-01-24 
  13. ^ 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 
  14. ^ a b c d e Tibbets, Janice 2007-12-27 "Wikipedia warriors hit delete" National Post Retrieved 2009-03-23 
  15. ^ The Letterman 2006-07-19 "Let Cher Price join Everywhere Girl in the dustbin of history" The Inquirer Retrieved 2008-01-23 
  16. ^ a b c "The battle for Wikipedia's soul" The Economist 2008-03-06 Retrieved 2008-03-07 
  17. ^ a b c d "L'édition de référence libre et collaborative : le cas de Wikipedia" PDF Les dossiers de la veille in French Institut national de recherche pédagogique: 25 April 2006 Retrieved 2008-01-24 
  18. ^ a b c David Sarno 2007-09-30 "Wikipedia wars erupt" Los Angeles Times Retrieved 2008-01-23 
  19. ^ a b c KG Schneider 2007-09-26 "Wikipedia's Awkward Adolescence" CIO IDG Retrieved 2008-01-23 
  20. ^ a b Nicole Gaudiano 2006-02-27 "Inside the world of Wikipedians, there's drama, politics and love" USA Today Retrieved 2008-01-23 
  21. ^ Jason Scott 2006-04-08 "The Great Failure of Wikipedia" transcript Notacon 3 Retrieved 2008-01-23 
  22. ^ Konrad Lischka, October 12, 2007, Wikipedia-Leidenschaft kühlt ab, Spiegelde
  23. ^ a b Brock Read 2007-10-03 "A War of Words on Wikipedia" The Chronicle of Higher Education Archived from the original on 2008-03-10 Retrieved 2008-01-23 
  24. ^ Graham, Paul July 2008 "Startup Ideas We'd Like to Fund" Y Combinator 
  25. ^ Nicholson Baker 2008-03-20 "The Charms of Wikipedia" The New York Review of Books 55 4 Retrieved 2008-02-29 
  26. ^ "Wikipedia in Trouble as Volunteers Leave" November 23, 2009 
  27. ^ Douglas, Ian 2007-10-11 "Wikipedia: an online encyclopedia torn apart" The Telegraph London: Telegraph Media Group Retrieved 2012-07-10 
  28. ^ Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Terry Shannon
  29. ^ 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 
  30. ^ Nat Torkington 2008-06-16 "On Wikipedia, storms, teacups, and _why's notability" O'Reilly Media Retrieved 2008-07-19 
  31. ^ Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Kristian Ayre
  32. ^ David, Peter, "Wiki wha", Comics Buyer's Guide #1663 March, 2010, p 82
  33. ^ "First version of recreated Kristian Ayre article; Wikipedia; January 20, 2010" Enwikipediaorg Retrieved 2011-11-30 
  34. ^ Nate Anderson 2007-02-25 "Citizendium: building a better Wikipedia" Ars Technica Retrieved 2008-01-23 
  35. ^ Adamson Rust 2006-07-14 "Everywhere Girl: You're deleted" The Inquirer Archived from the original on January 12, 2008 Retrieved 2008-01-23 
  36. ^ "Wiki high executioner executes Everywhere Girl" The Inquirer 2007-01-30 Retrieved 2008-01-23 
  37. ^ 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
  38. ^ Laure Endrizzi 2007-01-31 "La communauté comme auteur et éditeur: l'exemple de Wikipédia" DOC in French Institut national de recherche pédagogique: 7–8 Retrieved 2008-01-24 
  39. ^ a b Kai Biermann, Die Zeit, 23 October 2009, Die Diktatur der Relevanz
  40. ^ Torsten Kleinz, c't, 30 October 2009, Wikipedia: Der Kampf um die Relevanz
  41. ^ "Deleted from Wikipedia - Main Page - Deletionpedia" Deletionpediadbatleycom 2009-02-05 Retrieved 2011-11-30 

Further reading

  • John Broughton 2008-01-25 The Missing Manual: Wikipedia Pogue ISBN 978-0-596-51516-4 
  • Pavley, John 14 July 2012 "Wikipedia and the Hidden Deletionist Agenda" Huffington Post Retrieved 25 April 2013 

External links

  • Deletionism at Wikimedia Meta Wiki
  • Exclusionism at Wikimedia Meta Wiki
  • Inclusionism at Wikimedia Meta Wiki
  • Association of Deletionist Wikipedians at Wikimedia Meta Wiki
  • Association of Inclusionist Wikipedians at Wikimedia Meta Wiki
  • Wikipedia is not an indiscriminate collection of information A Wikipedia policy cited by deletionists
  • Wikipedia is not a paper encyclopedia A Wikipedia policy cited by inclusionsists

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