Thursday, February 17, 2011

Where Wikipedia pages went to die

While looking for something else (of course) I ran across Deletionpedia, an archive of pages that have been deleted from Wikipedia.  The idea is simple: siphon off pages deleted from Wikipedia, with exceptions such as copyright violations, libel and intentionally offensive pages.

Why do  this?  Wikipedia is reasonably wide-open, but it does have well-known standards for inclusion.  If it's not notable, or contains original research, or creative writing, or anything else that doesn't really belong in an encyclopedia, it's out, regardless of its other merits.  Deletionpedia was an effort to preserve such pages.

I saw "was" because, even though the site is still up, it hasn't been updated since mid-2008 (or 2012, if you believe the rather odd timestamps on the Recent Changes page).  All in all, Deletionpedia collected about 63,000 pages in the space of a few months.  Why did it stop?  The last status update, from 2008, apologizes for recent downtime, promises it will return in improved form and that  "Full service will resume ASAP."

Famous last words, indeed.  Another cool idea that most likely just didn't have sufficient resources behind it, particularly the time required to administer the site and maintain the Python script that was meant to automate the process of sifting out pages that not even Deletionpedia should provide a home for.

The origins of the whole exercise may lie in the "Inclusionist/Deletionist" theological debate in the Wikipedia community.  I wouldn't say that a site like Deltionpedia necessarily supports one side or the other.  On the one hand, it perpetuates pages that would otherwise disappear.  On the other hand, it lowers the consequences of deleting a page.

Neither should such a site have much effect on Wikipedia's "Right to Vanish" which, as far as I can make out, is more of a Right to Make it Somewhat Harder to Associate Your Edits With Your Identity.  Invoking this right does entail deleting one's User: page (but not one's Talk: User page), but I'm not sure how the average user page would make it easier or more difficult to track down who made a particular set of somewhat-anonymized edits.  But I'm not a, so I may have missed something.

Naturally, there is a Wikipedia page on Deltionpedia, and naturally, it has been nominated for deletion at least once.

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