Wikipedia:No amount of editing can overcome a lack of notability
This is an essay on notability.
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: When notability is legitimately invoked as an issue in a deletion nomination, the problem usually cannot be solved by more editing.|
When articles are listed for deletion on the grounds of the topic's notability, the creators of such articles often ask how they could write better articles about that topic. But they are, in fact, asking the wrong question. There are many notability guidelines for different types of articles, but when a notability issue is invoked, no matter what the topic is, it always boils down to this question: should we even have an article about that topic?
This means that unless information is added to an article to show that its topic meets the relevant notability guideline, or unless the notability issue was invoked in error, there is nothing that can be done to save the article. Not a better writing style. Not a more neutral wording. Not surrendering the redaction to another person to circumvent conflict of interest guidelines. Not the removal of material potentially regarded as promotional. Not a more explicit referencing from primary sources, press releases, or interviews. Not even a promise that, soon, the subject will meet the notability guidelines. Nothing. None of these things address the problem. The problem is not with the article itself: the problem is what the article is about.
Editors who protest against deletion nominations of articles they create are often closely related to the subject. Our conflict of interest guidelines do not prevent anyone from creating or editing articles about themselves, but the very act of creating an article often arises from such a relationship, and the creator often overestimates the notability of the subject. However, people who create articles about themselves or projects they are involved in can do something when their articles are deleted on notability grounds. But it can only be done off-wiki. They can get others to notice them or their projects first.
For example: If an article had been posted in 2001 (Wikipedia's first year) about the American recording artist and record producer Akon, it would probably have been deleted for lack of notability, with good reason. Even in 2004, when the biographic article about Akon was first posted, another editor might have argued that it was too soon for an encyclopedic mention of this new hip-hop sensation (and it probably was). But little by little, reporters and authors took notice, and voilà! With new reliable sources to back up the information in the article, he became notable in Wikipedia's mind. At that point with the supporting newspaper and magazine articles, no editor could make a credible claim that Akon was not notable.
In fact, if the current notability guidelines for websites had existed in 2001 (Wikipedia's first year), this encyclopedia would not have been able to maintain an article about itself. There was nothing about the site to document or write down as it was largely unknown at the time. But Wikipedia has grown into notability - appearing in the news and featuring in academic studies - and nowadays, it would be unthinkable for Wikipedia to not have such an article.
Wikipedia has more than 6.1 million articles now. Many of those do not do justice to the importance of their subjects (we believe the technical term would be "crappy"), but at least they do establish that the subject has been noticed by third parties before the Wikipedia article was started. Bad writing is not an argument for deletion except in extreme cases, but an otherwise brilliantly written article may be deleted without hesitation if its topic does not meet the relevant notability guideline.
What to do then?Edit
It depends whether you have a relationship with the subject or not.
If you don't, then, as far as Wikipedia is concerned, you can only wait. You may have started the article out of admiration for the subject, but if you are the only person who has noticed yet, then the time is not right for a Wikipedia article, even a brilliant one. Perhaps you are the first person to have noticed a performer, a politician, a business, etc. enough to write a neutral article about that person. But if you are first to notice, then Wikipedia is not the right place to spread the word about something worth noting. You may want to try your luck at Facebook, Twitter, or a personal blog, as such websites are specifically suited for you to say what you want to say. After some time, a reliable source or two may notice the subject in some depth, perhaps even thanks to you. When you become aware of that happening with some depth, then the time is right for you to start the Wikipedia article on that subject.
On the other hand, if you do have a close relationship with the subject, or if you are the subject, and you would like to become the subject of a stable Wikipedia entry, that's one motivation to become the best you can be in your field, and that is where you should concentrate your efforts. If you become prominent in that field, then by the time you come back to Wikipedia you might find that someone else has started a Wikipedia article on you, and that article may have already survived a deletion discussion. As a bonus, you will have spared yourself the drama of fighting to have the article about you or the subject you are close to stay in Wikipedia.
Of course, there is nothing keeping you from creating or editing an article about yourself or a subject you are close to (and editing is actually encouraged if you find blatant inaccuracies—though it is strongly discouraged otherwise), and Wikipedia does have several partly autobiographical articles about unquestionably notable people, perhaps the most well-known of whom would be Franklin Delano Roosevelt III, whose additions to his own Wikipedia article can be found here. For more insight, see Wikipedia:Wikipedians with articles, though this list does not claim that those on it ever edited articles about themselves. But the main point would be for you to become truly notable first, and that takes some time and effort (and often some luck). Your efforts could be undermined if you try to defend your current notability before your achievements have been noticed by the outside world.
- Wikipedia:Before – things to do before making an articles for deletion nomination. The foregoing essay assumes that the nominator has done that. If not, look at the potential sources listed in the deletion discussion.
- Wikipedia:Common sourcing mistakes (notability) – at times the notability of a topic is questioned that is notable, but lacks strong citations to reliable, secondary and independent sources substantively treating that topic. This essay covers three common mistakes in using sources to show notability.