Wikipedia:I wouldn't know him from a hole in the ground
This is an essay on the biographies of living persons policy and notability guideline.
It contains the advice or opinions of one or more Wikipedia contributors. This page is not an encyclopedia article, nor is it one of Wikipedia's policies or guidelines, as it has not been thoroughly vetted by the community. Some essays represent widespread norms; others only represent minority viewpoints.
|This page in a nutshell: Biographies must be on subjects that are notable. Wikipedia is not an indiscriminate collection of information.|
Wikipedia has guidelines on biographies, living people, and what constitutes a notable musician, and discourages autobiography and vanity. Despite this, some article subjects are nominated for deletion because in the end, even after reading the article, one or more of the community decide that "I wouldn't know him from a hole in the ground" (also paraphrased as "I wouldn't know him from Adam").[note 1]
This is not a judgment on the quality of the individual themself. They may be a worthy, indeed estimable person, a pillar of the community, respected and admired by all who know them. But think of it this way: every town has a mayor. Tens of thousands of towns in each of hundreds of countries, with new mayors every few years, many hundreds of thousands of hard-working, sincere, committed individuals – and only one of them is Clint Eastwood. Typical holders of provincial and state elected office are deemed notable, but what about those running for office? Or those running for their party's nomination for office? Politics, like horse racing, cannot function without the also-rans – who sometimes come from nowhere in the last furlong to confound the bookies – we discuss them, we may admire them, we might even vote for them, but in the end we can't write encyclopaedia articles about them because there is not sufficient information from neutral secondary sources to allow us to do so. A lack of encyclopaedic notability is no discredit to a subject. And many of those who work quietly and tirelessly for the community are perfectly happy not to be placed in the spotlight.
So if you want to write about someone, especially someone who is still alive, it is best to ensure that you establish the significance of your subject with verifiable citations from reliable sources, and understand the guidelines above before starting. It may be an idea to work an article up in your user area before launching it on an indifferent world. Because if you, the author, don't do these things, why should we care?
There is, of course, a difference between a subject who is not notable, and one whose notability is simply not established by the article (a difference which is not always readily apparent for a given subject). With luck, editors will notice the difference and expand the article. To give luck a helping hand, please do ensure that when writing biographical articles you give enough of a flavour of the subject to allow other Wikipedians to see what it is that makes that person special and worthy of note.
Consider the case of Eric Moussambani. Let's imagine for a moment that you have come across a redlink and decided to fill it in. So you could write this:
- Eric Moussambani is a swimmer from Equatorial Guinea.
Verifiable, factual, neutral, but fails to make any claim of notability. Of course someone should pick this up and fix it, but where is the hook? The motivation? In short, how is this notable? Now how about if you wrote:
- Eric "The Eel" Moussambani is a swimmer from Equatorial Guinea who achieved worldwide fame after finishing in the slowest time ever recorded in the Men's 100m Freestyle finals, at the 2000 Summer Olympics. Moussambani had never seen a 50m pool before the competition.
Wow! This more clearly explains why this man is notable. Can anyone remember who got the Gold, Silver and Bronze medals? Maybe, maybe not. But the public won't forget Eric the Eel in a hurry, and that makes him notable.
So there you have it: it's great to create articles, it's fantastic to write everything you know on a subject and then have others add what they know until you have a really great article – but if the limit of what you know is that "Joe Bloggs is the city dog catcher in Mudhole Flats, Idaho" consider posting at Requested Articles to help establish notability. Otherwise how will we know the subject from a hole in the ground?
- Presumably a contraction of the older and now obscure "I wouldn't know him from Adam's off ox", the "off ox" being the animal further away from the driver in a brace of oxen (in this case, Adam, already a person far removed from the speaker) and thus the epitome of obscurity and alienation from the speaker. If you listen to the dive bar scene in the "alternate reality" sequence of It's a Wonderful Life you'll hear Martini the bartender say this.