The Wikipedia deletion game

Can anyone help me understand why some people are so vehemently opposed to certain people (or topics) having entries on Wikipedia? Why do people get so worked up about the mere existence of certain entries? Currently, an entry for Joe the Plumber is being debated. Does it really dilute the value of Wikipedia to have entries like that? I remember when some people contested my entry (I wasn’t the one to put it up), it felt like some amateurish tenure review, except with not quite the same consequences. Would anyone care to defend the practice? I’m eager to understand the motivations better.

8 Responses to “The Wikipedia deletion game”

  1. Peter Says:

    Considering that Wikipedia has absurdly long entries on just about every sci-fi movie or TV episode ever made, they certainly can tolerate having an entry on a man whose name has featured prominently in the presidential campaign.

  2. David Brake Says:

    You have stumbled on one of the ‘holy wars’ that it appears consume Wikipedia insiders between the “deletionists” and the “inclusionists”

    I posted up a few links about Wikipedia controversies here not long ago:

    But where better to learn about the debate than Wikipedia itself?

  3. eszter Says:

    Peter, agreed.

    David, it’s a topic I’ve wondered about for a long time. I don’t know if Wikipedia is the place to read up on it though, talk about a potentially contentious entry!:-)

  4. ::: Think Macro ::: » “Deletionists” vs. “Inclusionists” Says:

    […] I followed Eszter’s post about a rather heated debate on Wikipedia on whether or not “Joe The Plumber” deserves an entry in the online encyclopedia.  It led me to a page with a long list of opinions ranging from “speedy delete” to “speedy keep”.  I, however, found the heading of this page particularly interesting: […]

  5. Peter Says:

    Wikipedia is reputed to be almost addictive for some people, almost all male, who spend hours and hours writing and editing articles on the most arcane of topics while neglecting normal social interaction. It seems quite plausible given the excruciating detail on so many articles. I know, most of these “addicts” are likely to be introverted nerds with few social skills and zero appeal to women, but still, they’re human beings and it seems such a waste.

  6. Jon Says:

    I think the underlying tendency is the same as what you see in IT – fight everything and drag your heels. This provides a bit of natural selection; if the idea struggles through it must be worthwhile (sigh).

    An ethnography of wikipedians segmented by their tendencies to post, discuss and delete would be fascinating — (I’ll add a clarifying sentence every month or so, vs OMG Something on the Interwebs is WRONG – MUST FIX) as well as deletionists and inclusionists, and so on. What type of person (probably proving Peter sadly correct) is hyperventilating about the wikipedia-worthiness of Joe the Plumber? How many of the thwarted inclusionist types end up posting at uncyclopedia to blow off steam? Truly, these are the questions of the age – and deserve a wikipedia page!

  7. Nat Says:

    Eszter, it’s the Internet! What did you expect? Sanity? A lot of people are dumb and territorial.

  8. Chris Says:


    I was drawn here magically by seeing a Magyar name.

    Anyways, good question! In one class I heard a professor say that the real power is not the decisions that are made, but in the setting of the agenda. The people who decide what is important enough to discuss hold the real power. Some people call this “framing the debate.”

    This is similar: the Wikipeople you’re referring to are trying not to shape the debate in one way or another, but are trying to ensure that no debate occurs.

    I personally hold the same idea as you, that resources such as Wikipedia should present lots of information to people, and let them decide for themselves. (For example, schools should teach about many religions, and let children learn and choose, rather than simply say there is no God.) These Wikieditors do not feel the same.