I was surprised today to learn that Michael Ley’s wikipedia page had been deleted (because it failed to indicate the significance of the subject). I have yet to meet anyone in Computer Science or Information Technology who does not know about the DBLP Computer Science Bibliography. Michael has received numerous prestigious awards for his work. He is a remarkable pioneer.

But there are other remarkable people without a wikipedia page. Patrick O’Neil is another good example. Consider the citations that some of his papers received (according to Google Scholar):

  • The dangers of replication and a solution: cited 1036 times;
  • The LRU-K page replacement algorithm for database disk buffering: cited 515 times;
  • Improved query performance with variant indexes: cited 421 times;
  • ORDPATHs: insert-friendly XML node labels: cited 273 times.

Chances are that if you have ever used a database engine at all, it implemented an algorithm or a technique related to the O’Neil’s work.

How many other remarkable scientists don’t have a wikipedia page?

Update: Thanks to Ragib Hasan and David Eppstein, these two computer scientists now have wikipedia pages (see Ley and O’Neil).

12 Comments

  1. I have long been opposed to the policy of simply deleting pages is the new editors-that-delete (as opposed to editors-that-create) decide the subject wasn’t important enough. But apparently Wikipedia has decided that part of its mandate is decide who the top 1 percent (or whatever) of people in the world are.

    In the never-never-land that is my future where I have spare time for such a project I want to create ‘Wikiography’ – a wiki containing biographies, one page for each and every person that ever lived. Enough elitism; there’s no reason why we can’t have seven billion active, and maybe an equal number of deceased, biography pages. None whatsoever.

    Comment by Stephen Downes — 26/11/2010 @ 17:59

  2. It would be a good thing to add articles on these people when you discuver their absence, rather than just complaining that they should be there — see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Be_bold

    But, when doing so, it is important to include some indication of what accomplishments or recognition the subject has that would justify an article on them (according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Notability_(academics)). For instance, here is the full text of the article on Ley when it was deleted in 2006:

    “Michael Ley is a lecturer at the Department of Computer Science of the University of Trier (Germany). His primary interests are database systems, information retrieval, digital libraries and electronic publishing.”

    There’s nothing in there that says that he was the principle developer of DBLP, nor that (as http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Bibliography_%26_Library_Project says) he won two awards for this work. If there had been, the article might have been saved.

    Comment by D. Eppstein — 26/11/2010 @ 18:01

  3. @Downes and @Eppstein

    Good points.

    Interestingly, I have exactly two comments on this post, both by people already on wikipedia:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Downes

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Eppstein

    Is this some kind of conspiracy? ;-)

    Comment by Daniel Lemire — 26/11/2010 @ 19:40

  4. Maybe we’re both worried about deletion.

    Comment by Stephen Downes — 26/11/2010 @ 20:07

  5. I went ahead and recreated the article with the award info. As David mentioned and I told you earlier on FB, Ley’s article was deleted back in 2006 because it had only 1 or two sentences without signifying why he is notable.

    The article is still quite short … so if anyone knows more information, they should add it there.

    (Disclaimer, I don’t have an article on myself, and have salted the page so that no one else can create it :) )

    Comment by Ragib Hasan — 26/11/2010 @ 22:21

  6. Ok, now O’Neil has an article too.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Ley

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_O'Neil

    Comment by D. Eppstein — 26/11/2010 @ 23:53

  7. @Ragib How do you “salt a page”? Thanks for creating the page.

    @Eppstein You are amazing!

    Comment by Daniel Lemire — 27/11/2010 @ 12:02

  8. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:SALT

    Comment by D. Eppstein — 27/11/2010 @ 16:38

  9. Anyone who blames Wikipedia for this, is basically blaming himself for not contributing.

    Move on and be constructive, and not start yet another wiki just for your ego.

    Comment by Opensource Obscure — 29/11/2010 @ 4:47

  10. > Anyone who blames Wikipedia for this, is basically blaming himself for not contributing.

    That used to be true, however, Wikipedia has a new group of editors whose basic purpose is to delete.

    Comment by Stephen Downes — 29/11/2010 @ 6:05

  11. Is DBLP really a significant scientific contribution? Even if it is, is it enough to make Ley a significant scientist? His nearly blank Wikipedia page suggests not. The correct way to do this is to mention the author Ley on the DBLP Wikipedia page, as it done now. I will delete Ley’s page now.

    Comment by NotARealAdmin — 30/11/2010 @ 13:57

  12. @NotARealAdmin

    Is DBLP really a significant scientific contribution?

    Maybe we could discuss whether Ley is a scientist, or rather a digital librarian. I would be fine with this discussion.

    However, building DBLP is harder than it looks. Also consider that when he started this out, he was well ahead of his time. It is easy now to look back on it and consider DBLP as a trivial thing. But, while we are at it, aren’t HTTP and HTML trivial too?

    Anyhow, he received multiple prestigious awards for his work. The discussion has been carried out and sane people have declared him worthy of mention.

    Comment by Daniel Lemire — 3/12/2010 @ 10:58

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