Quality, folks. Quality.

An editorial essay by electAbuzzzz

August 9th, 2009

You know, we have something to be proud of, here in Bulbapedia – something for our entire community to be very proud of. We now have 15,300 articles. Our wanted pages list, if you don’t count wanted templates, is almost down to 400 – the lowest it’s been in ages. That’s great, right? I mean, it’s really good. You know that usertag template we have, the one even I use, that says This user dreams of Bulbapedia being complete someday, with "complete" linking to the wanted pages? Well, then that means our work is almost done, right?

Except you see, dear Bulbapedians, I think we’re fooling ourselves with false statistics. Yes, we have 15,300 mainspace pages that are not redirects. But 2,400 of them are stubs. You know, stubs? Those tiny little pages that are just not quite worthy of being called "articles"? Yeah, 2,400 of them. I’m sorry, but... When did we start sacrificing quality for quantity?

Guys, we’ve been planting many young shrubs, but in the process, we keep forgetting to water our old oaks. Overall, well, that’s not really helping the forest, you know?

A note of notability

Let me take you guys back in time a little bit, to the good ol’ days of 2007. Short lesson in Bulbapedia history, if you will. The following is the transcript of a conversation between a relatively new yet promising contributor by the name of electAbuzzzz and a freshly promoted administrator who calls himself PAK Man:

I've another "is it notable" kinda question: the Anime Pokémon section here is getting bigger and bigger by the day. Many contributors, including you and me, are adding Pokémon characters articles constantly. We have articles for minor Pokémon such as Drew's Butterfree, Paul's Azumarill, Vicious's Scizor, Nero, Orville, Pink Butterfree, Spoink (anime) and others. Some of them appeared in only one episode, or had extremely minor roles. The question is - when is it too much? Which specific Pokémon deserve articles and which don't? For example: many Gym Leaders used one Pokémon prominently, and that Pokémon debuted in the series under their ownership. Common examples are Lt. Surge's Raichu, Erika's Gloom, Sabrina's Kadabra, Blaine's Magmar, Whitney's Miltank and others. These Pokémon had a far more important role in the anime than, say, Orville or Nero. I'd love to give them each articles of their own, but I just don't know if it's right. What say you? –electAbuzzzz 16:27, 20 July 2007 (UTC)
Personally, I don't think the articles on Vicious's Pokémon are necessary, as are the articles about Paul's Pokémon that he owned for one episode. I think it goes too far when the Pokémon didn't play too big of a role in its episode AND was never heard from again. Examples: Vicious's Scizor, Paul's Azumarill, Paul's Murkrow (which hasn't even debuted yet!), and Paul's Weavile, who we don't even know if he'll keep. I'll bring it up with the other staff and get their opinions on it. –PAK Man Talk 16:55, 20 July 2007 (UTC)

Now folks, that is how the articles on Gym Leaders’ Pokémon began. I wrote up a few articles about unique Pokémon who has a real and meaningful impact on the plot. Why? Because they were (and are) good articles, with real content. Now let’s fast-forward two years: somewhere along the way, someone decided that every single Gym Leader deserves to have an article about a Pokémon of his. The result? A whole page (I’ll never dare using the word "article" to describe that thing) about - wait for itRudy’s freaking Starmie. And another about Bugsy’s Scyther. Koga’s Venomoth. Tucker’s Arcanine. Now explain to me – please oh please, explain to me – what is the purpose, the point, of having these pages that contain nothing more than a paragraph surrounded by flashy templates that contain no content.

So with a struggle that was started by the now Editorial Board member PAK (remember him?) and was brought home by the now administrator Buzz (that’s me!), we finally created an official notability policy especially for these articles. Not everyone was happy, though – some users correctly stated that crappy as the articles may be, by removing them, we’re removing content. However, that is not the case.

You see, my purpose when I removed these "articles", was to take a bunch of tiny, crappy pages and turn them into something of real content – make them a section on another page – where they belong. That’s what we want. To make good, quality articles – instead of a huge bunch of paragraphs scattered all over the place in a million pages.

I’ve done, and I am in the process of doing, the same thing for other sections of Bulbapedia. Why? Because I support quality over quantity.

Draw me a table

We have pages that are meant to be lists. They’re usually named as such.

We have pages that are meant to be tables. They’re usually named as such.

We have sections – usually regarding game data – that are used as references for players, and are organized in cool easy-to-read table lists. Like what Pokémon can learn a specific move, or what moves each Pokémon can learn.

Not every article needs to be a list. Or a table. Or a template. Or a template that creates a table of lists. Or a list of table templates. Or a table that uses templates to make a list. Some do. Most don’t.

Write something. Stop listing everything. We call our pages articles for a reason. Put some time and effort into real prose. Full sentences. Paragraphs. Use conjunctions. You’ll be amazed at how much you’ll enjoy reading your articles after you do that.

Featuring: Quality content recognized

One of the first things I did when I got my administrator powers – and by "first" I mean within one hour of the said event – was tell our dear echidna that I want to revive the concept of featured articles. He agreed, and I became the admin in charge of the whole featuring process. Now, why is featuring so important to me, you ask? I’ll explain.

Please take a look at our featured articles. A real, close look. The finest of Bulbapedia. The articles that should set an example to all other articles. My favorite one is History of Pokémon. You might say I'm biased, because I wrote 95% of that article myself – and you’ll be right, I am biased. I was proud to see that article go from the state it was in before I took it under my wing, to the featured article it is today.

I’m sure other users felt the same way when their favorite articles, the ones they worked hard to write, became featured. My fellow Bulbapedians - that is what you should all aspire to do. Make quality content. Vote for quality content. Don't vote for an article that is about your favorite topic or character. Vote for the best written articles.

No, I don’t give a ship.

OK, I’m gonna be careful with my wording here because I know some users feel very strongly about this issue. First of all, just so you won’t get me the wrong way: I do not think shipping, as a rule, is not notable. Shipping is a major part of the Pokémon fandom. If we have articles about the Pokémon USA recasting controversy, the Pokémon Gold and Silver remake speculation, the Big Four, and HSOWA, shipping definitely has a place on Bulbapedia. Things like PokéShipping, RocketShipping, PearlShipping and ContestShipping, are important part of the fandom.

How many of you, though, truly feel that we absolutely need an article about AdvanceCloneShipping? Or AlienShipping? Perhaps AllergyShipping? No? How many of you, I wonder, are avid supporters of EnergyShipping? Or FireworksShipping? How many of you think ForinaShipping and OysterShipping are a vital part of Bulbapedia? How many of you even had some slight idea about what these shippings are, before clicking those links?

The shipping namespace currently holds almost 200 pages. These include RespectShipping, GreenShipping and of course, the glory that is CinnabarShipping. I’m sorry, I know that for some reason we hold different, extra-low standards for shipping, but nothing, nothing at all, justifies this. We’ve been too forgiving with this section, and nothing anyone will say can change that.

"And the Top Contributor of the Hour goes to..."

Now, where does it all start from? I’ve been asking myself that question many times. How did we end up in a state where people are so quick to create piles of nothingness and call them articles? My main conclusion was that we, the staff, have unwittingly created a culture where users feel that the higher their edit count is and the longer their list of "articles I created" is, the better they are.

Guys, edit count means nothing. Nada. Nichts. Zilch. Niente. Rien. 何もない. Users can get to the Top Contributors lists by edits that were later reverted; by splitting up their edits to a million revisions; by not using the preview button. On that list, adding a comma is the same as writing up 10 paragraphs. Being on that list is not a reward for anything. Stop trying to make small stuff just to get there, and start thinking of meaningful ways to make real contributions.

MySpace is that way

Why do we administrators have to keep saying that? Why did we reach a situation where we need to have a userspace policy, and a usertag policy, and a username policy, and a signature policy, and a talk abuse policy, and don’t take me wrong, the fact that we have them, or their content, doesn’t bother me – they’re all very important; what bothers me is the fact that we ended up in a situation that requires having so many policies.

Guys, why are you here? No, seriously, I’m dying to know the answer to this one – when you created your accounts, where did you think you’re signing up for? We’re a wiki. A collaborated project of users who work together to achieve a goal and create the ****ing best Pokémon encyclopedia the net has ever seen. So why do you all create accounts and then spend so much time creating fancy userpages and chatting about random silliness? Why do we have to TELL you that’s not what Bulbapedia is for?

Closing words

I never intended for this to come off as a rant, but I guess that’s what it looks like. What I was trying to express in this essay is my vision about the direction Bulbapedia should be heading to; the things we need to aspire to. If you’re reading this and you’re agreeing with me, don’t stop there – and don’t sign your name on my talk page with some comment either. Go out there and, for the love of Arceus, write.

Note: I wrote this essay on my own free mind. The sentiments expressed here are all my own, although some of the wording and content may have been influenced by the wise words of other users friends with whom I initiated conversations about these topics in the past, such as trom, evkl, deth and others.