Recently there was a question that asked if a certain twitter quote was attributable to Adria Richards. In the comments do that question I raised the question of it was even a notable claim for the purposes of this site. I did this for two reasons: one is that the claim itself wasn't very notable (i.e. a random person said something) and the second is that even if people Richards to be notable, the claim itself refereed to something that is unlikely to be of interest to people in the future, i.e. too localized, which is a question in and of itself.

While the topic of what is notability has been raised, what is the actual bar for when someone or something is significant enough to be considered notable enough for this site?

  • I admit, that my perception of notability of this might be skewed, as I'm a Python dev. OTOH, the case did get quite some mainstream media coverage, which cannot be said about big part of claims being brought up.
    – vartec
    Commented May 16, 2013 at 8:21
  • You're way wrong on both counts. Adria Richards is a notable individual (look at # of Twitter followers for a good indicator even if you aren't willing to analyze the notability semantically which is a more subjective way). And her claim is a major claim related to an extremely important political theory in USA.
    – user5341
    Commented May 24, 2013 at 15:34
  • @DVK - Twitter followers can be gamed and bought and therefore aren't a reliable measure of notability. As of right now there doesn't seem to be a proper definition of when someone is considered notable or not. Also, the claim wasn't about the theory - which would be an interesting question - but just if she made the statement.
    – rjzii
    Commented May 24, 2013 at 16:12

3 Answers 3


Re: notability

The bar for notability is very low. We accept facebook posts ("I'm seeing a lot of this being posted and re-posted on facebook"), email ("I received a rather intriguing email"), signs on trails, and quotes from books and blogs as evidence of a claim's notability.

It appears to me that our notability threshold is being able to demonstrate that at least one person other than the asker has made the claim in question. It was suggested by Fabian that "the number [of people making the claim] should be more than a handful", but given that we accept a single email as demonstration of notability, we're actually applying a very lenient test. In either case ("at least one other person", or "more than a handful"), the bar is quite low.

The purpose of Wikipedia's higher bar for notability is because it is an encyclopedia. Stackexchange is a question and answer site. Questions don't need to be useful or interesting into eternity. The purposes of our notability threshold are different than the purposes of Wikipedia's notability threshold.

This purpose of our notability threshold is two-fold:

  1. Elimination of idle speculation, and
  2. commitment to a particular, specific claim.

The subject of the claim (Adria Richards) does not need to be notable, only the claim.

  • Except at least two of those don't have a very limited interest either. The Facebook post applies to heart attacks (relevant to everyone), the sign on the trail's claim actually appears in many places. In the case of the Richards question, if we remove the person from the equation you get the following: "Did $RANDOM_PERSON say the following: $QUOTE." In that particular case, how is that actually a notable question?
    – rjzii
    Commented May 15, 2013 at 16:53
  • @RobZ, We have never applied a test that checks if the subject of the claim is notable. We have only asked that the claim itself is notable (and by notable, I mean passing the seemingly low bar that I describe). If there exists a source that claims that "$RANDOM_PERSON said $QUOTE", under our current precedent, that would demonstrate sufficient notability to support a question.
    – user5582
    Commented May 15, 2013 at 16:57
  • @RobZ, and applying such a test accomplishes the two goals. We would be satisfied that it wasn't simply idle speculation of the asker, and we would have a very specific claim that could be examined.
    – user5582
    Commented May 15, 2013 at 16:58
  • But as it stands right now the only reason why that question exists is because of the percived notablity of the person it is made about, which brings us back to my original objection to the question in the first place - the claim itself is not notable if the person it is directed towards is not notable.
    – rjzii
    Commented May 15, 2013 at 17:05
  • See my answer: If my interpretation here is right, @Sancho is arguing it is notable, and Rob Z is actually arguing that it is too localized, and so you are arguing past each other.
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Commented May 15, 2013 at 17:11
  • @Oddthinking Yes. That is mostly my point. Notablity addresses the two goals that I mentioned. The goal that RobZ has in mind is perhaps an important goal of the site, but separate from why we have the notability requirement. I'm also not arguing that the Adria Richards question is notable; I'm only describing the notability test that we use on this site.
    – user5582
    Commented May 15, 2013 at 17:13
  • @Oddthinking That's a pretty fair assessment since even if we agree that the claim is notable on one grounds, I don't see how anyone is really going to care what she may or may not have said weeks to months from now, let alone years from now.
    – rjzii
    Commented May 15, 2013 at 17:21
  • The question has been split apart. :)
    – rjzii
    Commented May 15, 2013 at 17:28

I started to compose a longer answer discussing the goals of our notability rule, and pointing out recent questions that suffered from the problems it was trying to solve.

Very briefly - and this should probably be in the FAQ somewhere:

  1. provides evidence that many people believe it, so it is worth lifting a finger to research it, in an effort to reduce (not increase) the spurious claims spread over the Internet.
  2. provides specifics, so we know we aren't challenging a strawman, and can see what definitions and context the original claim has.

This particular question was very specific. It was easy to research, and once someone had actually given an answer, the first issue is rather moot.

However, it dawned on me that the objection isn't really about our notability clause. It is about our 'Too Localized' close reason, i.e.

This question is unlikely to help any future visitors; it is only relevant to a small geographic area, a specific moment in time, or an extraordinarily narrow situation that is not generally applicable to the worldwide audience of the internet.

Now I wondering if this confusion between our "not notable" and "too localized" close reasons is widespread, because I can see now the distinction is rather subtle.

  • I agree. I think RobZ may have a good point, but it's not about notability, it's about whether or not the question will be interesting to many people for a long time. I think it would be wrong to wrap up those two goals into a single concept of notability. The notability threshold establishes the two goals that you mention. The third goal of long standing and broad interest is achieved by asking questions to not be "too localized".
    – user5582
    Commented May 15, 2013 at 17:12
  • Hmm, well, to a certain extent notability and localization are closely related and in this case the person might currently be "notable" within the IT community (likely heavy overlap on this site :)) but temporally it's likely a very localized incident as I'd completely forgotten about her until I saw the question on here. There might be some people that still care in a couple weeks or months, but a couple years from now I doubt it.
    – rjzii
    Commented May 15, 2013 at 17:14
  • Too localized has been removed, so this may be worth updating?
    – user5341
    Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 15:06

To start things off, I don't think that the Adria Richards question really reached the level of notability that it should have been included on this site in the first place. Had it not been for the "donglegate" it is very unlikely that anyone outside of her social network would have even known who she is. As it is, she's more known now for the issues in the IT community itself as opposed to any contributions that she has made to the community or society at large.

Minimum notability I think is something that is worth addressing but is going to be difficult to do so, but I think that Wikipedia does a good job of hitting upon the major point that notability requires some staying power and something should be relevant in the future. Going back to the Adria Richards question, is a comment that she may or may not have made actually relevant to anything and is anyone likely to even care a year from now?

Another bar that I've sometimes seen before is the number of Google hits a topic may have; however, I don't really feel that is a very good approach since Google search results appear to adapt themselves to the user and there are obviously going to be differences based upon localization (i.e. www.google.co.jp does not return the same results as www.google.com).

  • 1
    “had it not been for ‘donglegate’” – well but there was donglegate, that changes everything. Commented May 16, 2013 at 1:52
  • @KonradRudolph Yes and no, most of the 15 minutes of fame that Richards is enjoying is more due to the fact that she inadvertently raised awareness of an issue in the IT community than anything else. Even with that, most people in IT don't know who she is.
    – rjzii
    Commented May 16, 2013 at 4:00
  • @RobZ: as per google "notability": "donglegate" 90,100 web hits, "adria richards" - 298,000 web, 93 in recent news articles
    – vartec
    Commented May 16, 2013 at 8:01
  • @vartec - That's not saying much though, "monicagate" is much more important than donglegate was and it only gets 69,000 hits on Google.
    – rjzii
    Commented May 16, 2013 at 14:29
  • @robz it had like 5 different *-gate names (I remember that as "zippergate". And happened in times, when online journalism was practically non-existent. So 69K for just one name isn't bad result
    – vartec
    Commented May 16, 2013 at 17:55

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