Open main menu

Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2018-12-01/From the archives

Ars longa,vita brevis: ARS might continue, but some Wikipedians might not.
We reprint this article below written by Michael Snow, in the 16 July 2007 edition of The Signpost on the creation of the Article Rescue Squadron (ARS). Snow is the founder of The Signpost, is an admin, though has not edited for many years, and has also served on Advisory Board of the Wikimedia Foundation and as chair of the Board of Trustees.

Wikipedian bloggers launch "article rescue" effort

Rescuesquad - No text.png
ARS logo

Perceived trends in the deletion of articles led to a new Wikipedia organization after a number of Wikipedian bloggers voiced concerns. Following recent arguments that substantial numbers of articles were being inappropriately deleted, the blog discussion prompted the creation last Friday of an Article Rescue Squadron, dedicated to saving articles on "perfectly notable topics" from deletion.

Ben Yates, who runs a Wikipedia blog, launched the group on the premise that many of the articles nominated for deletion are in jeopardy primarily because they are targeted as being "ill-formed", often by inexperienced Wikipedia contributors, even though the topics they cover would be appropriate subject matter for Wikipedia. A primary concern was that "making sure that articles about notable topics don't get deleted because of writing style, or because they're stubby." His idea drew on examples highlighted by Andrew Lih in a provocative blog post on Tuesday titled "Unwanted: New articles in Wikipedia".

Lih pointed to an entry he himself recently started, about PBS ombudsman Michael Getler, which was tagged within an hour for speedy deletion. The tag used was the {{db-empty}} template, even though the article consisted of a complete sentence identifying the subject, a properly formatted external link to Getler's PBS biography, and a stub template. A quick expansion explaining his background as an experienced journalist and the first ombudsman appointed at a major American television network kept the article from being deleted.

Near the same time several other Wikipedian bloggers posted about deletion issues, including Geoff Burling [1], Urpo Lankinen [2], and Kelly Martin. Martin criticized the deletion of an article on web startup Pownce, a project of entrepreneur Kevin Rose that recently received a round of publicity. Mentioning the fear that Wikipedia is being used to boost the profile of other projects, Martin commented, "Basically, any web property less prominent than Wikipedia itself may not have an article on Wikipedia under the current mindset." Pownce had been through speedy deletion along with both Deletion review and Articles for deletion before Lih stepped in to restore the article.

The Article Rescue Squadron has begun signing up members, including both Yates and Lih along with current arbitrator Matthew Brown and former arbitrator Rebecca. Examples of inappropriate deletions were being collected along with strategies for dealing with the problem. The launch also prompted an extended discussion on the English Wikipedia mailing list. Yates tried to emphasize that the effort is about improving articles that might be threatened with deletion, not mobilizing to control deletion debates, but some thought the concept still fundamentally questioned the judgment of those nominating articles for deletion.

Cultural issues with the overall deletion process, and concerns about the perceived detriment to Wikipedia, have long been fodder for debate. A previous cycle in 2005 was particularly intense, something manifested most dramatically when Ed Poor deleted the page then known as "Votes for deletion" (see archived story). After several previous alternatives stalled, early 2006 saw the introduction of Proposed deletion, a more lightweight process that relieved some of the pressure from the volume of nominations at Articles for deletion.