There are many discussions about "notability", with the presumption that we should only include articles in Wikipedia that are "notable". This is only half the story. This essay attempts to expand on some of the reasons to exclude articles from Wikipedia.
By improving our understanding of why including certain articles is a bad idea, we can formulate general principles, and come up with meaningful policies to replace Wikipedia:Notability.
Wikipedia is not paper, so physically there is very little cost in including any given article. However, there are other costs:
- Maintenance: Every page needs to be categorised, copyedited, linked to and from, reassessed for suitability, fact checked and so on.
- Distraction: An unimportant but controversial page can distract good editors from working on more important pages.
- Reputation: Having articles on inappropriate topics can harm Wikipedia's image. How seriously would you take an encyclopaedia that had an article on its owner's dog?
- Hoaxing: Obscure topics receive less traffic, and have fewer people able to vet the content of their articles. The risk of a hoax or simply false information being made public becomes significant.
When articles concern currently-functioning commercial establishments of low notability, the probability that edits to the page will effectively be advertising goes up. In theory, a small amount of useful information could be written about even the most minor hotel in a forgotten backwater somewhere. In practice, when these articles exist, they tend to be purely advertising. Given that someone is actively pushing for the article to be advertising, it just becomes too much work to enforce the neutral point of view policy.
Barely notable living people
This special case refers to people who have some minor notability, perhaps due to a single event in their life that thrust them into the newspapers. But little else is publicly known about them. The main danger here is defamation, publishing things that are hurtful to them, and not necessarily true. It is best for Wikipedia to set the bar higher for living people, and exclude them when in doubt.
Many fans of television series, comics, computer games or books want to document everything there is to know about that imaginary universe. That's not a bad idea, but it shouldn't be at Wikipedia. The harm is mostly the maintenance of large numbers of pages, and to our reputation: a serious encyclopaedia should contain an article on the cultural phenomenon surrounding Daleks, but it is simply not necessary to have extensively detailed articles on every character encountered in every fantasy land in every relatively obscure computer game.
A rough guide to whether the public at large has an interest in a topic can be obtained by searching for the topic at http://www.google.com/trends. Items such as "snicklefritz" which "do not have enough search volume to show graphs" are doubtful Wikipedia entries.
Posts that will walk you through the Wikipedia article writing process