Is Wikipedia's "Deletionism" Out of Control?

by Ostatic Staff - Mar. 19, 2010

Wikipedia has become famous, or perhaps infamous, for its intolerance of new content. That is to say, there's a dedicated group within Wikipedia's community that prides itself on pruning content from Wikipedia rather than being inclusionist on new content.

The deletionists are getting renewed attention after proposing that the dwm entry be deleted because it's a a "non-notable window manager." While dwm may less notable than other desktop environments and window managers, most users would probably find it more useful than not to have an entry describing dwm in Wikipedia.

This is not a new phenomenon, but it's apparently a persistent one. Tim Bray noted this in 2008, because the deletionists had wanted to get rid of a Ruby hacker's entry:

What got me involved was word that the Deletionist undead were shambling in the direction of _why's entry. Oh, and by the way, apparently it's somehow uncool that I entered the debate because I heard about it somewhere.

... A little thought-experiment is in order: What harm would ensue were Wikipedia to contain an accurate if slightly boring entry on someone who was just an ordinary person and entirely fame-free? Well, Wikipedia's "encyclopedia-ness" might be impaired... but I thought the purpose of Wikipedia was to serve the Net's users, not worry about how closely it adheres to the traditional frameworks of the reference publishing industry?

Guarding against inaccurate content, spam, biased material, and unverifiable entries is admirable. The relentless pursuit of deleting content because someone unfamiliar with a topic decides that it's not "notable" enough is not. The fact that this continues to be a problem even for a project like dwm demonstrates that Wikipedia is still not working well. While the site certainly provides a valuable resource, some portion of its community is ensuring that it is not as valuable as it could be.