Monday, April 11, 2016

Only notable persons need apply

My father working as a geologist
in Africa in the 1930s

I was a bit surprised that one had to pass a set of "notability guidelines" to be posted on Wikipedia.  I was thinking of writing a biography of my father, who had been a mining engineer and exploration geologist for the better part of 40 years in the Caribbean and Africa.  Given the lack of references to his experiences available over the Internet, it would be difficult to have the biography stay up for any length of time, as editors, or wikipedians as they are called, would have the power to remove it.   I suppose I could approach the biography backward by creating Internet records based on the written records I do have of his experiences, but that would be a tedious effort, and I assume the notes would be examined as well.

This led me to ask what makes a person "notable?"  Obviously, notability in one field doesn't necessarily carry the same weight in another field.  Then there are the strange cases where one is notable for being a well-documented murder victim like Kitty Genovese or falsely convicted of murder like Amanda Knox, having lived uneventful lives before these incidents took place.   This is more "notoriety" than it is "notability," but I don't write the rules.

It apparently is not enough that someone lived an eventful life, the events themselves have to be significant enough to warrant consideration.  Even then, the person has to be more than notable by association, he or she has to have contributed significantly to that event.  "Relationships [alone] do not confer notability."  So, the fact that he worked for the Marshall Aid Plan after WWII, by helping to provide badly needed raw materials may not be enough.  He has to have been more than a minor role player.

I suppose these guidelines keep persons from simply posting obituaries on Wikipedia, as it would get cluttered with names pretty quickly that have little interest beyond family members.  Wikipedia is rather cluttered as it is.  But, I'm curious to learn what it is to be a Wikiepedian and if there is room for my father on Wikipedia.

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