Sunday, 1 May 2011

In defence of Pippa Middleton's Wikipedia page

There is a certain type of person; you will know the sort.

They are the sort of person who is a Wikipedia editor.

This is not to say that all Wikipedia editors are the same; but there is a certain type of person who edits Wikipedia and takes special delight in deleting pages because they deem the person to not be sufficiently "notable".

What this often means is that the earnest dullard does not think that the subject should be notable.

The latest person to face such deletion is Pippa Middleton, currently one of the most discussed people in the world, or at least that portion of it which watched the royal wedding.

(You can read the dullards on this proposed deletion here.)

It may well be that such a maid of honour, sister, and a socialite-party organiser should not have a Wikipedia page; but Wikipedia was certainly the first place I looked when I wanted to know more about her.

Surely this is the point of Wikipedia: someone out there taking time to write a page knowing that someone like me will want to read it.

In any case, her sudden fame over the last couple of days is a notable cultural event in itself, and that is worthy of record

So, if the dullards want to take a page down, I can gallantly offer this one instead.

And the dullards should just be glad no one has also done a separate Wikipedia entry for the one attribute of Pippa Middleton which has been the real reason for most of the attention.


No purely anonymous comments will be published; always use a name for ease of reference by other commenters.


rhythmaning said...

Apparently Ms Middleton has had a Wikipedia page for a while - but has now been noticed because of her prominence [no pun intended] on Friday...

Dr Aust said...

Do we know if Miss Middleton has any fondness for kittens?

I searched the Wikipedia page assiduously but this vital information was inexplicably missing.

avaragado said...

I have no problem with the sister of the future Queen having a Wikipedia page: if every single episode of Star Trek is allowed a page, then I see no reason why she can't have one.

What's interesting, though, is that the brother and parents of the future Queen have no pages. That might suggest that Pippa's page was created for reasons other than true notability: she is surely no more or less notable than they are.

Alistair Coleman said...

I myself was deleted from Wikipedia for failing the notability test.

[punches air]

Conor said...

Apparently there are two different philosophies on this. And it being Wikipedia there's an article about it:

Just zis Guy, you know? said...

Deletionism is almost as old as Wikipedia. The issue is not, in general, the merit of the subject, but the quality of the sources. We've had serious problems with tabloid-sourced biographies in the past. We also have many, many articles on people like Pippa Middleton who are famous for being famous.

Anonymous said...

I'm not surprised - the fact that wikipedia has multiple entries about separate "transformer" toys but removes entries like this speaks volumes about the priorities of the emergent hive mind that does a lot of the editing work; despite apparently no concerns about server space, perfectly well crafted content goes in the bin due to standards of "notability" that make little sense to the regular visitors the site is ostensibly there to benefit.

Mind, the best way round it to pitch in and help, although I suspect you'd need a lot of patience to get involved in a long deletion debate.

JRevell said...

It might be worth noting that the request to delete the article had already been formally rejected ( by the time this post appeared... so the David Allen Green page is evidently safe!

Alasdair said...

Hi, David
You will note that, even before you published this article, the deletion discussion which you reference had already been closed as an "issue that does not have a snowball's chance in hell" of being accepted.

No editor can unilaterally "delete" an article, there are clear rules and processess in place, publicly available, to determine how and what can be deleted (and a process to review decisions that were controversial or wrong). The fact that even editors who are mistaken, wrong, or misguided about the policies and principles of wikipedia, can nominate articles to be considered for deletion, does not mean that they will be successful.

In my experience, while the processess by which wikipedia articles can be deleted may seem longwinded or complex (especially to those, including yourself, who apparently take no effort to understand them in favour of attacks on wikipedia for not being the website they want it to be) - They produce a correct result that results in a better Encyclopedia far more often than not.

There are many forms of content that people would want to read that are obviously totally inappropriate for inclusion on wikipedia, for a short list you could see - or indeed, most of the rest of the internet. Wikipedia, is only trying to live up to its own principles, rather than those others decide to put on it.

Finally, for those tempted by your last point - may i suggest a read through of the classic (successful) deletion -

Tim Trent said...

Ah Wikipedia. I admit I have edited there. And there are totally obscure people who fail the pretty well laid out tests of notability coupled with verifiability who are still there because they are popular with those who argue for their inclusion, and there are those who probably should be there who get deleted. I've argued both cases when I've bothered to get involved

The thing is, deletion discussions depend on the right balance of interested folk taking part and arguing the rather arcane rules well. And then the jury is a random administrator who fancies closing the discussion and interpreting the arguments as what is sometimes obviously a not wholly impartial manner.

As to Pippa Middleton, only the self appointed great and good will decide. And the same with the page about you. The thing is, David, no-one really cares either way about either of you unless you are notable and verifiable and are not famous for one thing only.

elderpegasus said...

Sorry, forgot to put ID on previous comment starting "I'm not surprised..."

Joe said...

deletion discussion is finished and they decided to keep this article.

This discussion is good reading for anyone interested in how Wikipedia decides to delete or keep articles.

Tim Trent said...

Not entirely, Joe. Such discussions are usually allowed to run for at least 5 days. This one was closed fast on a procedural point and one that is open to debate about appropriateness. Someone, anyone, may yet challenge the validity of the closure of the discussion.

Wikipedia is not a peaceful and gentle virtual place. It is simply cloaked in ritual politenesses. It contains its fair share of folk from all demographics, and there are all political and cultural flavours there. Editing there is an amusing technical pastime, but it does not reflect real life.

Nick Gordon said...

I have no view about Ms Middleton, but I'm certainly in favour of deleting the page about David Allen Green. I've never heard of him and he seems like a complete nonentity :)

Or, as Shakespeare might have said: "First thing we do, we delete all the Wikipedia pages about lawyers"

Maxine said...

Oh how silly. I have no interest in royal (or other) weddings or this lady, but you are quite right that many people are interested in her just now and why should she not have a Wikipedia page?

I find Wikipedia very useful for information on popular culture (and even one or two other things) - I do wish that entries have attributed authors, and that edits were made transparent and their authors named (and anyone who wants a page removed should similarly write so publicly on the page with reasoning/attributed).

What are the reasons against such transparency?

Shimmin said...

Wikipedia has a few policies along that lines that notability doesn't equal being in the news. Relatives of famous people aren't automatically notable; people associated with one famous event aren't automatically notable; things that are in the news a lot for a short times aren't automatically notable (to avoid "recentism" and "sensationalism" bias). I can see that a page on Pippa Middleton could fall under any of those. As Alasdair said, the fact that people now look everything up on Wikipedia doesn't really affect what ought to be there. WP isn't saying that information XYZ shouldn't be anywhere, just that it shouldn't be there - which is just as valid as any other wiki limiting its content. The problems are that a) WP is the best-known wiki, so people expect everything to be on it and b) WP has a specific use of "notable" which doesn't quite match what people often expect.

Maxine: see above. Encyclopaedias don't usually cover everyone who was briefly of public interest for (let's be honest) no particular reason, and WP argues for the same. In terms of your wishes, the entire edit history with editors named is visible on the "History" tab. Articles don't have attributed authors because they're not owned by anyone, but you can see who started an article on "History" like any other edit. If someone suggests deleting an article it'll be on the "Talk" tab; if it gets nominated, all editors involved in the discussion get named under their contributions. So there aren't really any reasons to give you.

Incidentally, I don't get involved with deletions myself, but I do edit Wikipedia.

Palinurus said...

I don't buy the "Encyclopaedias don't ..." arguments. Wikipedia isn't an online version of a regular encyclopedia - it is only really useful because it is isn't. A regular encyclopedia tends to cover only establishment sanctioned 'worthy' topics, is page limited and takes forever to update. It also tends to be broad in focus whereas Wikipedia can be both broad and narrow - having entries that you'd find in specialist works (e.g., an encyclopaedia of statistics or chemistry etc.).

It seems perfectly obvious that PM deserves an entry (and I write this as sometime who was completely uninterested in the royal wedding and would dearly love to replace the royal family with something more useful).