In a single day, about 500,000 edits are made to the English version of Wikipedia, and approximately 800 new articles crop up. But for each incoming new page, anywhere from 400–500 pages are deleted entirely, daily. “Famous watermelons,” “How do i stop my son from looking at picachu porn,” “List of fictional characters with removable or interchangeable heads” — all have met their fate in the digital graveyard of Wikipedia’s “Deleted articles with freaky titles” page.
Wikipedia is the web’s most expansive encyclopedia, but the nature of its crowdsourced information makes it prone to vandalism, misinformation, and a deeper question of what truly deserves its own page. Twitter accounts like @DeletedWiki memorialize these dead pages by tweeting out titles hourly, and it’s easy to understand why they’ve been sent off to the big information dump in the sky. Wikipedia has strict guidelines on what it’s not: a dictionary, a blog, a newspaper, a crystal ball. Wikimedia communications manager Samantha Lien says that it all comes down to the “notability requirements” of any new page. “Notability is defined as a subject that has ‘received significant coverage in reliable sources that are independent of the subject,’” Lien says.
But it’s generally understood that those notability requirements can wildly differ. “Sources needed to demonstrate notability for an athlete in present day would probably look very different from the kinds of sources available to demonstrate notability of an ancient philosopher,” Lien says.
Articles will be pulled for being “patent nonsense,” a moniker that sounds more subjective than it is. Pages under this banner are totally nonsensical, whether they’re downright unreadable or contain random characters. Even if your article is poorly written, it wouldn’t fall into this area. There’s also no original research allowed. “As Wikipedia is a tertiary source, it’s critical that enough reliable sources about a topic exist to verify information included on Wikipedia, and that those sources are separate from the subject,” Lien says. If the Wikipedia page you’ve created has been yanked, it’s likely because it fails to meet these notability standards. Or, perhaps it’s committed a copyright violation, vandalism, violated a neutrality standard, or some combination of all three.
There’s a great deal of collaboration between the community’s volunteer editors and the Wikimedia Foundation, says Lien. Wikimedia, the company that owns Wikipedia, supports the site with technological infrastructure, investing in new tools, and defending its editors and site with legal protection.
What it does not do is write, edit, or impose influence on the site’s content. That’s up to its volunteer community. Anyone can propose an article deletion, but only an administrator can remove it.
If you want your articles to stick around, Lies says, it helps to work with editors to add citations or emphasize an encyclopedic tone. Just look at the seemingly nonsensical nature of the “James while John had had had had had had had had had had had a better effect on the teacher,” a page with a purpose that takes some grammatical understanding to fully appreciate.