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Wikipedia values[edit]


There's a current listing on VfD for a supposed rockstar by the name of Strawberry Jonbenet Butthole Forever. Presumably this is a reference to JonBenét Ramsey, and a particularly tasteless one IMO. But, that doesn't mean that, were the character by this name famous, they shouldn't have an article in Wikipedia. We have lots of other articles that I personally find tasteless. In this instance the musician concerned appears to be unencyclopedic for other reasons, so deletion is likely in any case.

But this case raises issues of values. I will argue below that this particular article name is unacceptable in Wikipedia. More important, I will support that argument with more general principles about what is and is not acceptable.

Where Wikipedia's values come from, and what they affect[edit]

Wikipedia's purpose is to build an encyclopedia. This is the primary source of our values. Anything which is recognised as advancing this goal is, in a sense, a value of Wikipedia.

A second source of values is that there are things that all Wikipedians agree on. Whatever the facts or the rules, we can expect Wikipedia to reflect this sort of strong consensus when it exists. Thirdly, there are significant Wikipedians whose personal views are particularly influential, most notably of course Jimbo.

These values are reflected in Wikipedia. They influence both what articles we have and what they say. They are invoked and assumed in our discussions. When they conflict, we have our most strident discussions. They are of course also reflected in our rules.

What these values are[edit]

Accuracy and NPOV[edit]

The value of accuracy is such an implicit assumption that it is hard to recognise it as one, but it is often invoked in discussion. It is generally assumed that inaccurate information is not what we want. Neutral point of view or NPOV is a related but more complex issue, and Wikipedia's most prominent and most debated value.

Human rights[edit]

Human rights are often invoked, both implicitly and explicitly. They include the right to live in freedom and physical and emotional security, and the right to ownership of possessions.

When these rights commence is a controversial issue underlying the abortion debate, both on and off Wikipedia. I will argue that they do not end at death, and particularly that the rights of a little girl are seriously infringed by accepting an article with a name that deliberately and violently insults her.

Some would argue that the presumption of innocence is a human right. The backgrounds of most Wikipedians would probably support this, but it is by no means universally accepted.

Human rights are one issue that underlies our frequent debates on matters of copyright. We do not wish to steal the intellectual property of others, but nor do we wish to allow others to steal intellectual property which the authors have deliberately made available to the public, or which for any other reason we are entitled to publish in Wikipedia.

Not all matters of human rights are controversial. There is for example no support or tolerance for death threats.


This is another value that is often assumed and unstated. It underlies the very meaning of encyclopedia.

It is one of our more controversial values. It underlies the inclusionism debate. Where do we draw the line? What level of detail should be reflected in the article names? What are the criteria? Fame? Importance? What does encyclopedic mean?

It also underlies this particular case. Assuming that a musician does decide to be known by a stage name that infringes other values, then that is accurate information. At some point of fame and/or importance this information will become encyclopedic. At what point do we include it?

Personally I don't find this decision at all easy in general. But I find it very easy in this case.


There is every chance that the article which inspired this will be deleted. I hope so. If it is not, this would not be the only decision I've disagreed with. It won't ruin my day or my dreams and visions for Wikipedia. But I think it's also an opportunity to raise some useful issues.

On reflection I've decided to put this in the user namespace, following Jimbo's example with Pushing To 1.0. It was originally intended for the Meta and may go there some day. Feel free to copy it there if you wish to, and meantime to comment on its talk page, and/or to add signed, dated and indented annotations into the text here.

The talk page has the advantage that it doesn't affect my ability to edit this text, and your comments will not likely be removed or rephrased in a refactor, which is my right on a user page. Putting them here is easier in the short term. I'm happy either way. Andrewa 21:03, 5 Apr 2004 (UTC)