Everything is Important (in Wiki-land)

This comment on jwz's post about WikiGroaning made me laugh out loud:

I'm at work explaining how I solved a minor issue with our group's mailing list on an old listserv box to a younger team member. He asked how I knew about all this weird mailing list stuff. I said I used to run some lists on majordomo.

Him: "Majordomo? Why would they name mailing list software after a boss in WoW [World of Warcraft]?"

Me: "No dude, it comes from the word for the head of a household staff. Wiki-up majordomo for a history lesson. No Warcraft is involved."

* Majordomo (domestic staff), a head of a household staff

* Majordomo (software), a proprietary mailing list software project

* Majordomo Executus, a boss in the World Of Warcraft computer game

Him: "See?"

Me: "Oh. My. God."

I voiced my displeasure with the results to the wikigods.

It's so true! All those social cues and pointers about what's important are washed away under the uniformity of wikipedia's information architecture. This is why the WikiGroan stuff really does make you groan in places. Which is the better article: Marriage or Married… with Children? Some of this you can account for by assuming that most "serious" topics are very well covered in a variety of books and other sources already, whereas often Wikipedia is effectively the authority on "populist" topics. But that doesn't really account for Charles Miller's observation on Wikipedia's obsession with symmetry:

My favourite Wikipedia foible, however, one that amuses me almost every time I look something up on the site, is the assumption on the part of its editors that relevance is a symmetrical relationship.

Which means that every book, movie, historical figure or event that was mentioned even in passing during just one episode of The Simpsons will have a note to that effect on its Wikipedia page, because that’s just what you needed to know about the Franco-Prussian War. (Ditto any popular song that has been covered by some unsigned punk band that played two gigs in a Wikipedia editor’s neighbourhood).

Wikipedia treats everything as important and I'm not sure that's a useful thing to do.

Permalink: http://blog.iandavis.com/2007/06/everything-is-important-in-wiki-land/

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