William Beutler on Wikipedia

Posts Tagged ‘Essays’

How to Avoid Unnecessarily Annoying a Wikipedia Editor

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on March 28, 2009 at 1:05 pm

I work in an office where discussions of Wikipedia come up fairly often, which owes something to the fact that I work for an online marketing firm. However, one habit on the part of some co-workers (about which I have not previously commented and will permit myself just this one gripe) is the irritating habit of referring to Wikipedia as Wiki.

Now, I get the need to economize time spent devoted to communication, especially when everyone is on Internet time. “Wiki” is just two syllables and four letters, while “pedia” tacks on an additional three and five, respectively. Not to mention, between the two halves of the word, “Wiki” is more distinctive than “pedia,” and also ~pedia has been growing in usage as a suffix (mostly because of Wikipedia). So I understand why they (or maybe even you) do it. But here’s the problem — it’s just wrong.

Even if you’ve only used Wikipedia as a time-waster you are probably at least somewhat aware that Wikipedia is an encyclopedia built upon something called a “wiki,” which is analogous to a blog in that it is a relatively new platform for building a website. Although the Web is lousy with wikis — the software having business and entertainment applications alike — I’d wager that Wikipedia is the only one that most people ever use. This explains the habit, but doesn’t excuse it.

Calling “Wikipedia” by the abbreviation “Wiki” is expressly verboten on Wikipedia itself, which in fact has a guideline-like essay appropriately titled Don’t abbreviate Wikipedia as Wiki. This obviously does not proscribe such usage off-site — nor does it try to do so — but it would at least save a bit of the enamel on my teeth.

As the essay advises, in written communication “Wikipedia” can be abbreviated to “WP”; to be sure, this is also the initialism for WordPress and arguably so for the Washington Post as well — two other terms in common usage at my inside-the-Beltway workplace — but I think in most cases, context will make this clear. As for spoken word… you know, if you’re in a rush and call it “Wiki” I won’t correct you (like I will those who mispronounce “Oregon” or “Nevada”) but I would appreciate your attempt to call it “Wikipedia” whenever possible. Just out of common courtesy is all.

So there, I’ve said my piece. Sincerely, your trying-to-stay-friendly neighborhood Wikipedia editor.