Wikipedia talk:What Wikipedia is not/Unencyclopedic

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Once upon a time, lots of people voted on wikipedia:votes for deletion by saying "delete, unencyclopedic". Then, one day, Oliver Pereira "started a campaign" to try and eliminate usage of the word, and encourage more specific (he would say, more meaningful) alternatives. Below is the archive of that discussion.


When describing material on Vfd, is the word "unencyclopedic" useful or useless? Contributors weigh in.

moved from VfD

    • Keep. And I'm hereby starting a campaign against the word "unencyclopedic". It just begs the question. "Unencyclopedic" = "shouldn't be in an encyclopaedia" = "should be deleted from an encyclopaedia". So you're just saying, "This should be deleted because it should be deleted." I think the only meaningful criterion for inclusion of a person (or any other subject) is the amount of verifiable information we can obtain on them. And I think this person has quite enough. (Over 1,000 Google hits, for a start.) And what we have is, in any case, interesting. :) So keep! -- Oliver P. 01:49, 28 Sep 2003 (UTC)
      • Hear hear! Let us stamp out use of this terribly irritating word. I read "This is unencyclopedic" as "I don't understand this." or "I don't like this." or "I don't think this person is important, even if a million other people do." (cf. snooker player incident) -- Jake 20:05, 29 Sep 2003 (UTC)
        • Don't criticise me about that. Why do you criticise me instead of my actions? RickK 05:36, 30 Sep 2003 (UTC)
      • "unencyclopedic" is simply shorthand for "I don't think this topic is note-worthy or relevant enough to include in an encyclopedia". That's a valid and useful distinction. An encyclopedia should only contain information about note-worthy things. Most relatives of famous people are not note-worthy and are therefore unencyclopedic. Not everyone who's written a book is encyclopedic (there are probably millions of people who have written books). In this case, it's a relative of a famous person who has written a book, and has some unusual views which have presumably come up in the news and embarrassed this famous person. So he may be encyclopedic - I think in this case it's a matter of opinion (that's why we vote). But "unencyclopedic" is still a useful term. Axlrosen 04:07, 30 Sep 2003 (UTC)
        • Hear, hear. RickK 05:36, 30 Sep 2003 (UTC)

end of moved text

copied from User talk:Oliver Pereira

Re: "unencyclopedic". I rather like that term, and I believe I use it in the following (not necessarily distinct) non-tautological ways:

  • "unencyclopedic" = "unimportant (my own subjective assessment, of course)"
  • "unencyclopedic" = "does not match my idea of the Platonic ideal of encyclopedic content"
  • "unencyclopedic" = "readers don't come to an encyclopedia looking for that info"
  • "unencyclopedic" = "when readers see this material, it will adversely affect their opinion of Wikipedia as an authoritative source of information"

I suppose I could use the longer phrases...

Cheers, Cyan 03:37, 28 Sep 2003 (UTC)

Hmm... Well, if the term means lots of different things to you, perhaps it would be good to use the longer explanations; otherwise we wouldn't know which one you meant. :) I think the main problem with the term is that everyone has a different idea of what an encyclopaedia should be, so unless you can be sure that you are using it to people who have the same idea as you, it's not very helpful. I'll tell you my idea of the ideal encyclopaedia. I think the goal should be complete coverage of all human knowledge. :) Unattainable, of course, but what Platonic ideals aren't? I think that general encyclopedias were always meant to contain all of human knowledge, but that they were frustrated in getting anywhere near that goal by all sorts of constraints. Early encyclopaedists had limited staff (usually staff need to be paid), limited time (they have to publish the finished version at some point), and limited space (who would buy a 1,000,000 volume encyclopaedia?). Wikipedia doesn't suffer from the same constraints. It has millions of potential editors, doesn't need to pay them, there's no publication deadline, and hard discs are cheap! So I think the traditional idea of what an encyclopaedia is can be pretty much thrown away. :) -- Oliver P. 04:12, 28 Sep 2003 (UTC)
Hope you don't mind if enter your conversation... I have always been unhappy with the fact that "unencyclopedic", when used as an argument in dispute, is much frowned upon and often regarded useless. Philosphical problems (read: tautological definition) aside, I think it would be very helpful if Wikipedia had a stated ideal of what an encyclopedia should be. Do you know of any (failed?) attempts at reaching a consensus about this? Best, Kosebamse 07:33, 28 Sep 2003 (UTC) - or, to put it differently (as there are, of course, endless debates about what an encyclopedia should be): has there been any discussion resulting in a consensus that the term "unencyclopedic" is not a valid argument? Kosebamse 07:43, 28 Sep 2003 (UTC)
I have to disagree completely with "I think the goal should be complete coverage of all human knowledge." Frankly, that would be useless - there would be so much information that it would overwhelm the reader. It would be information, but it would cease to be knowledge. The job of an encyclopedia is to serve as a filter (created by humans) of all possible human knowledge, so as to include the wheat and exclude the chaff (aka the "unencyclopedic"). The NYC phone book is part of "all human knowledge", should that be included? How about every phone book in the world? No, there are better sources for that information than Wikipedia (or any encyclopedia, Platonic or not). Similarly for every primary school in the world, or every relative of every actor, or everything that gets a few dozen hits on Google. They don't belong in an encyclopedia. (FYI This semi-rant is directed as much at the geo-bot debate as the "unencyclopedic" debate.) Axlrosen 21:56, 30 Sep 2003 (UTC)

end of copied text

I agree with Oliver P., people should be more specific if they have objections against an article text than using this vague general term "unencyclopedic". - Patrick 08:27, 30 Sep 2003 (UTC)
Strictly speaking, "unencyclopedic" is the most precise way to say that something should not be included in an encyclopedia - VfD could be retitled list of unencyclopedic articles - and says nothing more. Cyan's list above is good; people should say which of the four things they really mean when they say "unencyclopedic". I think in some cases the the word is just a six-syllable way to avoid voicing one's real objections in a form that could be rebutted point by point. Stan 13:24, 30 Sep 2003 (UTC)
Actually, the most precise and concise way is the verb "delete"... Martin 21:29, 30 Sep 2003 (UTC)

Whilst I understand your concerns Oliver, I have no problem with "unencyclopedic" being given as the reason for listing a page. The aim is to give a brief description on why you are listing something here, not a 500 word essay on the meaning of unencyclopedic and how such a term may be applied to the article in question. Everyone knows what it means. If others wish to point out why something should be included, then they can do that, but 'unencyclopedic' is a great way of putting across what is wrong with an article in a single word, and possibly a more diplomatic way of saying what you really think of an article. As for Jake's comment on "the snooker player incident" – I fail to see what the problem is here. The whole point of VfD is that it prevents mistaken deletions taking place. It gives people a week to point out that in fact someone is famous. You can't expect all Wikipedians to be familiar with every sporting hero or otherwise 'famous' person. Rick hadn't heard of him - fair enough – it wasn't deleted, so what's the problem? It was perfectly valid for Rick to list the page here as at the time the 37 word 'article' gave no indication that this person was "encyclopedic". Angela 21:02, Sep 30, 2003 (UTC)

It's vague: precision is good. "incomprehensible" or "rant" or "nonsense" or "never heard of this person" or "too obscure" or "fails google test" or "uninformative" or "unhelpful" or "vehicle for advertising" or ....
By all means use "unencyclopedic" when you don't really know, or can't put into words, why you want to delete something. That's what I do. Martin 21:27, 30 Sep 2003 (UTC)

I don't see what the problem is with unencyclopædic. It is a perfectly straight-forward term with an obvious meaning - does this belong in an encyclopædia? The implicit questions raised by the term are:

  1. Is the topic worthy of enclusion in an encyclopædia? (Josef Stalin clearly is, Shades of nail-varnish clearly isn't, unless it is an article that charts the use of colour in female make-up from say a historical perspective, etc. List of Albums by the Eagles clearly is. My Pet Dog is called woofy isn't, unless it is the name of an album, book, film etc. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to spot the encyclopædic from the unencyclopædic.
  2. Is the content encyclopædic? (ie, is it neutral, informative, balanced, well written, etc?)
  3. If the content currently isn't, can it be made so? If the topic isn't, can it be made so? If the answer is no, then the article belongs as some scribble on the back of a notepad but not on wikipedia, just as it would not get into Encyclopedia Brittanica, World Book, etc.

The issue is perfectly clear and an obvious reference point for deciding what should and what should not be in an encyclopædia. FearÉIREANN 22:12, 30 Sep 2003 (UTC)

I guess I'd just prefer to see these things made explicit. Hence: rather than:
One would have:
* shades of nail varnish - trivia, unimportant topic. Martin 22:45, 30 Sep 2003 (UTC)
* Alan Davies - current content irredeemably POV. Martin 22:45, 30 Sep 2003 (UTC)
I just think the latter is more useful to folks reading the VfD page. Martin 22:45, 30 Sep 2003 (UTC)
When I have used the word unencyclopedic in the past, I meant that it did not belong here for a wide variety of reasons I thought would be obvious to everyone else too (like obscenity, "I know it when I see it."), however, some have disagreed (for example, I can think of a dozen places I'd look to find an Eagles discography before trying an encyclopedia, however, speaking as one who has struggled with being colorblind and using nail varnish, I'd love for someone to finally explain to me what Cleopatra or Zing or WetNWild #401 actually are, especially if they could provide the nearest Pantone or CMYK numbers!) so perhaps clarification is always a good idea. So, I'll stop using the word. -- Paige 03:47, 1 Oct 2003 (UTC)

How about simply "unencyclopedic, reason why"? Best of both worlds :) Dysprosia 03:51, 1 Oct 2003 (UTC)

Yep, the best of the world of redundancy coupled with the best of the world of rational discourse. :) But still, even the best of the world of redundancy is still redundant, so best to leave it out, I think. Angela says, "The aim is to give a brief description on why you are listing something here," and I entirely agree. My point is that the word "unencyclopedic" is not such a description. It gives no further information than that already conveyed by the fact that something is being listed on Vfd in the first place: that it doesn't belong in an encyclopaedia. I think it is only courteous for people to say why they think that. After all, others might disagree, and they frequently do. What we should aim for is a consensus on what should and should not be deleted, and there is no hope of any consensus being formed if people won't even say what their problems with articles are. (Sorry for dragging this up again after a week, but I took a break from the Wikipedia, and I have to have my say!) -- Oliver P. 07:05, 8 Oct 2003 (UTC)

I think this is now deprecated by uninformative and unverifiable, both of which are more precise expressions of similar statements. Martin 23:49, 25 Nov 2003 (UTC)
I'm not sure what you mean by that. If you mean that when people say "unencyclopedic" they really mean "uninformative and unverifiable", then I disagree. As far as I can make out, they usually mean nothing more nor less than "I don't like this". A lot (most?) of the time, the word is used for articles that are perfectly informative (in the sense that they contain information) and verifiable. It seems to me that the perceived problems are more usually to do with lack of fame, or "triviality" (like your shades of nail varnish example), although of course it's difficult to know unless people explicitly say what their problems are. If, on the other hand, you are just stating your own personal view of what is suitable for an encyclopaedia, then fine (except that I don't understand your idea of what "informative" means; I'll bring that up elsewhere). However, it's clear that other people have very different views on what is suitable for an encyclopaedia, so they should subsitute different terms, depending on what their views are. -- Oliver P. 00:41, 13 Apr 2004 (UTC)

See also: User:Cyan/Unencyclopedic for Cyan's POV on the matter, and User talk:Cyan/Unencyclopedic for a related discussion between The Cunctator and Cyan

See also What Wikipedia is not