Almost Famous

Megan McArdle has discovered that the Wikipedia entry about her was deleted because she’s been deemed insufficiently famous for inclusion. As the subject of my own, quite outdated Wikipedia stub (essentially a replica of a bio for an online journal I edited from 2004-2005) I find the whole thing rather amusing. I’m sure I’ll be deleted any day now.

As Megan’s commenters point out, Wikipedia includes entries for minor characters in pop culture, including detailed synopses of popular television shows and that “the strength of Wikipedia over dead trees is that memory is cheap; they should be welcoming stubs (short mentions) on topics of interest to small numbers of people and encouraging people to post on their areas of expertise.”

Further, Megan is arguably more noteworthy than many people who qualify for publication according to Wikipedia’s unofficial Notability policy, which allows “Politicians who have held international, national or statewide/provincewide office, and members and former members of a national, state or provincial legislatures” and athletes “who have played in a fully professional league, or a competition of equivalent standing in a non-league sport such as swimming or tennis.”

Is a writer for the Economist whose blog gets read by 5000 or so people a day and does occasional national television appearances more “notable” than a local politician? Someone who was once a minor league ball player? Or, indeed, a non-starter on a major league team?

It’s certainly true that neither Megan nor I would merit inclusion in Encyclopedia Britannica. Then again, neither would most of the entries in Wikipedia. Space is, for all intents and purposes, infinite yet, as another of Megan’s commenters points out, we “don’t want every bored kid writing themselves into the encyclopedia.”

So, where do we draw the line?

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. yetanotherjohn says:

    Perhaps I don’t understand the working of wikipedia, but why draw the line at all. If a third grader wants to post a wikipedia post to celebrate her third place finish in the potato sack race, let her. At most they could do something with the search engine to prioritize entries.

    On the other hand, think about the earlier ‘The whole world is not watching’ and wikipedia entries which are more likely to come up in a search (seems to be a google search engine preference).

  2. Bithead says:

    The reasoning that they give is so far out of line as to be laughable. On that basis I have to wonder what the real motivation was, though if it is something different I can’t imagine what it would be.
    My instinct tells me that something doesn’t fit correctly, here.

  3. Caveat utilis Wiki.