There's nothing particularly objective about deciding who qualifies for the Dead People Server. The decision of yours truly is arbitrary, capricious, and final.
To make the list, a nominee must be an interesting celebrity. "Celebrity" means lots of people have heard of them, and "interesting" means I believe that they are. For example, they actually accomplished something useful or entertaining on their own and aren't just related to someone who's famous, or had celebrity foisted upon them without making any contribution of their own. I don't think that any of the following are generally interesting:
And, yes I do make occasional exceptions to these rules.
Even now that Osama bin Laden is dead, I don't list him because his only celebrity comes from the fact that his terrorist operations killed thousands. On the other hand, OJ Simpson, an acquitted murderer, is listed here because he was a celebrity (in multiple fields even) before Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman were slashed to death. Oh, am I making a connection here? Of course, OJ was acquitted - they wouldn't acquit a double-murderer, would they?
Mostly, the people on the list either are either fairly recently dead (after 1950), or are alive but are either old enough or "retired" enough that some people plausibly believe them to be dead. In general, I don't add living people younger than 50, unless they are rumored to be dead, have a medical condition or addiction that implies they may die young or have retired very young.
Or, perhaps they died in an unusual way - for example, while I really want to avoid listing every athlete or musician, I thought Pistol Pete Maravich's death during a pick up game deserved inclusion.
I do tend to add people whom I think ought to be remembered. I'm much more likely to add a writer, scientist, or activist than a drummer, fashion model, or makeover expert. I include a few people I'd just as soon forget (George W. Bush), not because I think they ever contributed anything positive to society as much as they are ubiquitous.
DPS gets a surprising amount of E-mail. Due to the volume, I'm ignoring anything about Paul McCartney being dead (so far), Elvis being alive, Al Lewis being born in 1910, etc. Facts are facts, folks. It's not fun to debate the obvious, like the long-ago dead. This incarnation of DPS sticks to people from popular culture, the Internet, literature and history, and people who died after 1960. If anyone wants to build the "Dead Sports People Server," just let me know and I'll happily link to it. Or to local pages like the "Dead Australian People Server." Anyway, I'm not adding your relatives, friends, et.c. It's not that I don't like you or your dead uncle, it's just...there's only so many hours in the day before we'll all join this server list. This site is designed more for trivia and humor than therapy.
As an opinionated woman, I do get my share of hate mail. I tend to add the senders to my kill file, but I have to say how amusing it is that people think terms like "atheist," "dyke," and "liberal" are terms of derision... (While I am, of course an atheist and a liberal, I'm not a dyke given that I've been married to a male heterosexual since 1977. I am, however, an unapolegetic feminist which isn't quite the same thing as being a dyke.)
I sometimes catch flak for my guidelines. I guess I notice it a little more just now (spring 2007) as I am unemployed so claiming "I don't have the time to add X" is nonsense.
The biggest complaint I got in the first ten years of Dead People Server was my refusal to add Dale Earnhardt. I just feel NASCAR, like wrestling or boxing, is an activity that shouldn't be encouraged.
Now, there's a bruhaha among a few readers about my refusal to add Jerry Falwell. I have an anti-mullah note in the Guidelines. Falwell was nothing but a mullah in a badly-fitting Western suit. He was also an incredible bigot. I don't feel people that bigotted should be noted here.
I think it's kind of funny that there's a post-death "pissing contest" of sorts over Falwell's death by the even-more-bigoted Fred Phelps and his syncophants. Both were masters of encouraging intolerance among their followers.