Wikipedia NPOVs

By Deane Barker on March 25, 2004

What would happen if you made a Wikipedia entry on yourself? I was browsing Wikipedia this morning, as I have a tendency to do (I started with Pontius Pilate and ended up at David Beckham — figure that one out), and I got to wondering what would happen if I created a new page for Deane Barker. I could list all my accomplishments, throw in a resume, perhaps a picture, etc.

Obviously, this is a silly question ([sigh] — will I ever rate a Wikipedia entry?). But, in a larger sense, I’ve always wondered how Wikipedia vets (or plans to vet) entries. Who decides what’s important enough to get an entry?

Furthermore, how to you handle opinions? In Beckham’s entry, there was a reference to his receiving of a red card during the 1998 FIFA World Cup. The author says:

…Beckham became the target of criticism, sometimes justified (the accusation of petulance, for example) but much merely gratuitous.

Seems like a tiny thing, but who decides if the criticism was “gratuitous” or not? If I didn’t care for Beckham, and I believed all the ciriticsm was justified, could I change it (yes I could, in purely mechanical terms, but should I?).

Yes, yes, I know — we’re talking about David Beckham here, and there’s not a whole lot of fanatical controversy involved (actually, there probably is…). But what about the entry on Palestine? Or abortion? Or Scientology? In the end, who decides what goes in and what doesn’t? And who decides the tone?

Wikipedia has tried to address this problem with NPOV Disputes:

Neutral Point Of View. An NPOV (neutral, unbiased) article is an article that has been written without taking a stand on the issue in hand. This is especially important for the encyclopedia’s treatment of controversial issues, in which very often there is an abundance of differing views and criticisms on the subject. In a neutral representation, the differing points of view are presented as such, not as facts.

The article on Palestine, for instance, is the subject of one such dispute. Here’s a page of hundreds of topics currently in NPOV Dispute status, it reads like a laundry list of hot topics around the world. Wikipedia, to their credit, has an exhaustive page covering the definition of NPOVs — what one is, and what one isn’t.

But, in the end, people are still going to disagree. If the Israelis and Palestinians can’t agree on anything else, how can we expect Wikipedia pages related to their conflict to be any different?



  1. In answer to your first question: “If you create a new article about yourself it will most likely be listed on votes for deletion and a heavy debate will ensue. That does not mean it will be deleted, of course, but there are people who feel strongly that you should at the very least not start articles about yourself, no matter how important you consider yourself.” —

    And no, it’s not a silly question — see Daniel C. Boyer for precedent.

    As for your last question — you can’t expect such articles to be neutral. For as long as a controversy is relevant (e.g. for as long as there are people alive who remember the Israel/Palestine conflict), articles about the controversy will be both unstable and unreasonably long.

  2. I did a little searching in Wikipedia and found this page…

    …that lists a bunch of pages up for deletion. It’s very interesting to see (1) what some people enter (apparently a lot of people HAVE created pages for themselves), and (2) the reasons editors give for keeping or deleting them.

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