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Latest comment: 4 years ago by Hanif Al Husaini in topic Reverse naming

Note: The initial material here was formerly the entire

content page. I have moved it here because it is largely
just discussion, and I have rewritten the content
entirely, using as much "approved" material as was
practical from the original. --Tysto 23:40, 29 May 2005 (UTC)Reply

Subtitled: Wikipedia Unbound

Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. I share w:Jimbo Wales's desire that it not become w:Yet Another discussion forum. But it definitely is something different from a paper encyclopedia, and I think we should think more about how to take advantage of that fact. Perhaps a separate discussion forum would be the appropriate place to do this, but I think doing it here is just as viable and useful. I also don't want it to become yet another big dead collection of facts.

No size limits[edit]

  • No size limits: The most obvious difference is that there are, in principle, no size limits here. It is quite possible, for example, that when I finish typing in everything I want to say about w:Poker, there might well be over 100 pages, and enough text for a full-length book by itself. This would certainly never be tolerated in a paper encyclopedia, which is why Britannica has such limited information on the topic (and on most other topics). But I see no reason at all why Wikipedia shouldn't grow into something beyond what could ever possibly be put on paper. The Nupedia FAQ rightly warns about taxing a reader's patience with rambling prose, and I agree, but I'm talking about things like detailed subtopics and sub-subtopics. Why shouldn't there be a page for every Simpsons character, and even a table listing every episode, all neatly crosslinked and introduced by a shorter central page like the above? Why shouldn't every episode name in the list link to a separate page for each of those episodes, with links to reviews and trivia? Why shouldn't each of the 100+ poker games I describe have its own page with rules, strategy, and opinions? Hard disks are cheap.

I agree with this one completely. --w:Jimbo Wales

Me too. The beauty of Wikipedia is its extensiveness. And plain text takes up an almost negligible amount of disk space. At 7 letters per word, you can hold 15 billion words on a 100 Gig hard drive that costs around $70. That's 2 million words per penny. In fact, I'd go so far to say we should allow users to create entries on themselves, as long as they're factual. -Spencer195 03:20, 24 Mar 2004 (UTC)
Can I change this, because now $70 hard drives hold 250 GB?

This might make it very difficult to use the search function of Wikipedia, because any simple search would return a vast number of results. If there were a way to meta-tag articles with keywords, this would help, but there is currently no way to do that. - TimShell

w:Google's search intelligently ranks search results by page rank. Wikipedia can easily be adapted to do the same, or use a balance of article popularity as well as incoming links. So, more popular results appear first. For all I know, in fact, Wikipedia may already do this - User:Willsmith

A solution I see is to break thing down into more than one article. Have nested articles. For example, break "Poker" up into a couple of different articles like "Basic Rules", "History of Poker", "Variations of the Game". These will be much more search-able. The only problem would be splitting an article into smaller ones once it gets too big. This might become a difficult task, but very much within reach. -- Fulgore

I have also avoided abbreviations in general, since they seem primarily designed to save paper. I see no reason to use "e.g." when "for example" can be typed just as fast, is clearer, and less likely to be incorrectly rendered as "i.e." by those who can't remember the difference. --LDC

There are size limits. The reader's patience is limited. A 100 page thesis on poker is useless to someone who wanted an encyclopaedia article on poker. There are reasons why there are two formats called encyclopaedias and reference books. The purpose of an encyclopaedia is to provide the reader a brief overview of the field so she can do a better contextualized search for whatever she is actually interested. You have a textbook project now associated with Wikipedia. It's meaningful and appropriate to move a tome like a 100 page guide to poker there and maintain the encyclopaedia as an encyclopaedia.

Of course, this is not to suggest modifications in practice here, but merely to object to the statement that there are no size limits. Any time someone states an infinity, they are wrong. -- User:SunirShah

While I agree with your theoretcial statement about infinities, I disagree with your application here. That maxim, in this situation, comes in when someday we hit the limits of the hardware available to Wikipedia. In one sense, we're already constantly hovering around that barrier, as hardware limitations cause the website to slow down for a while until it's upgraded. I don't believe, however, that this limit applies to a mere (^_^) 100 pages on poker.

You're right about readers' patience, and about the need of an encyclopaedia to provide an overview. That's why the article w:en:Poker is only 1 page (max 30 KB) long, and provides (if well written) a good overview. But we can continue to write additional pages on more detailed aspects of poker, each 1 single page complete unto itself, and each providing an encyclopaedic overview of that detailed aspect of poker. And if that grows to 100 pages on poker in all, then that's just fine; because we have come nowhere close (at that point) to the actual practical size limit of Wikipedia.

-- Toby Bartels 21:53, 24 Oct 2003 (UTC)

Look, if everyone can just come here and type an "encyclopedia article" about a TV show, website, or a specific type of Beanie Baby, then Wikipedia would become the Internet. Isn't there someone who has to pay for the bandwidth of this service?

The Internet is much broader than that. Internet is used for commercialism, music and picture storage, creative arts, useless rambling, pornography and a whole host of other things. An Encyclopedia is just what it is, textual information about a large variety of topics. Movies won't be hosted here, neither will be 200MB size files. We don't sell stuff on Wikipedia, and everything here is licensed under GNU Free Documentation License so everything here can be FREELY REDISTRIBUTED, which some people may argue is a bad thing. Plus, Wikipedia is user supported, that's how they pay for it.

-- User:Ambush Commander 20:23, 24 Sept 2003 (UTC)

Someday someone will get the bright idea to adapt this technology into a distributed filesystem / peer-to-peer / distributed computing technology to overcome a lot of bandwidth and processing power (think searching) issues. -- Sysy 09:54, 5 Jan 2005 (UTC)

I would just like to recall the fact that Wikipedia is NOT a discussion forum (and that's precisely what you're doing). "Wikipedia is not a soapbox, a chatroom, discussion forum, or vehicle for propaganda and advertising."

  • I disagree with the "No Size Limits" principle on 2 points, inline with some of the views above:

1. Economics: Hard disks are cheap but bandwidth is not! In fact, in a service with millions of users, bandwidth is the biggest cost item. There is a relationship as well with the amount of users served, the bandwidth and the server time, and this can constitute either a financial problem or reduced download time. However, lets keep in mind that every time someone downloads a page from Wikipedia, it is costing money! You can also translate this into energy and carbon footprint. You can look at this issue in different perspectives and change the title of the problem from 'Economics' to 'Carbon Footprint' or 'Server time/bandwidth bottleneck'.

2. Usability: Simply put a user can only read a screenful of text at a time. So if the user can only read a page of text at atime, why let him/her download 100 pages upfront! What we also forget is that while encyclopedias have changed the users habits are evolved as well. Internet users "don't read" but "they scan" the text. They are also impatient because their time is limited, they "jump" from page to page trying to reach that "useful" bit of information they need inside this information overflow. It therefore better to structure big articles and if possible split into smaller articles where they can jump with a simple click rather than flooding them with pages of information. So an article should be divided if and when possible. Of course there is a balance in how much you can split to not to make it a pain either. But there can be heuristics, such as limitation of the link depth or bounding the article size and letting it grow in width (and link depth). These parameters can be determined scientifically to reflect the optimum values for the biggest group of users.

This is not about how much information should be in Wikipedia, rather it is about how we organize and present this information to obtain maximum usability. I can also add the search engine visibility to this mix, because that's how users reach the information. It is more likely for a user to click on a "title article" rather than some keywords buried in the text. (Search engines also built that way to reflect that behaviour)

So, for economical, technical and usability reasons let's pay attention to how we organize the information. We all agree that storing information is cheap and no longer constitute a challenge but accessing and using the information do. Information is plenty, human brain is still the same size, eyesight is still limited with a page, human time is limited, the goal is to find and access the right bit of information. How do you solve this optimization problem? By adding more harddisks? (sorry for the lengthy text hope you didn't jump and scan, I presume you didn't stray away since you are reading this :) --Billyg 09:44, 28 December 2011 (UTC)Reply

Style differences[edit]

  • Style differences: Some standards of English prose style don't really apply. For example, CMS (The Chicago Manual of Style) tells us to briefly gloss the first use of an abbreviation, as I just did with "CMS". Also, jargon terms can be treated similarly. This makes a lot of sense--if you mention something, the reader may want to know more about that thing, and giving a full name will make it easier for him to look it up. But we have something even better--a direct link to the thing, not just a full name. This is even better for glossing jargon, because many terms are simply not explained at all by a quick gloss, but a link would do wonders. I think this: ...code page 437 was based on the DEC VT-220 terminal... is easier to read and far superior to: ...code page 437 was based on the DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) VT-220 terminal (a computer input/output device).
While I agree the basic point of the above message, I am highly skeptical of the claim "code page 437 was based on the VT-220". I believe the exact opposite to be true; DEC MCS was based upon IBM's Code Page 437 -- as implied at http://www.rz.go.dlr.de:8081/info/faqs/unix-shells/iso-8859-1-charset.html -- Also refer to w:codepage 437 and w:VT220 which appear to support the order in which each standard appeared. --w:RaD Man

I agree with this one, too. I will say that we ought to have style standards, of course, but that these will evolve to suit our needs and abilities here in the wiki. And of course, the open nature of the software means that enforcement only comes to the extent that we authors care to enforce it. --w:Jimbo Wales

I'd also like to comment here that while the current Wikipedia software makes graphics a little trickier to do here than on paper, there are a few things that are actually easier: (1) color, for example, is trivial on the Web and almost everyone can access it (at least a few basic colors). This is very expensive for paper, and so color doesn't get used much in text. (2) Animation is impossible on paper. We can do it here, but we should establish maximum-interoperability standards early on. (3) Interactivity (same issues as animation).

Interactivity (same issues as animation). Pop-up books? - Calmypal

Instead of placing short meanings in parenthesies (like this), just make a link. 01:32, 16 Jun 2004 (UTC)

Ease of editing[edit]

  • Ease of editing: There should be less need of weasel words like "at the time of this writing", "generally recognized as", "commonly believed that", etc. Just say it the way you think it is, and if you're proven wrong, come back and edit it later. If there are disagreements, then put up a page about each disagreement (see below).

I only partially agree with this one. The reason is that when I write on some controversial current topics like Napster, I know that it might be awhile until I come back and edit it. Others could edit it, of course, but I can't be sure when they will. So it is best to write in a timeless fashion, because it is likely that many pages will grow gracefully old. --w:Jimbo Wales

Conversely, some information needs a time-stamp: if I'm putting in population figures, I'll note what census they're from. 162.83.143.xxx


  • Timeliness: The pages of an encyclopedia are all compiled and printed at roughly the same time, and old sets are generally replaced by new whole sets. Wikipedia pages cannot assume that the reader will have any clue to the historical context in which the article is written, or the state of any article to which it refers. It is quite likely that some Wikipedia page will refer to "the most common/popular X...", then point to a page with an entirely different "most common/popular X...", each of which was correct when written. We must be careful, then, to imagine how our article might appear to someone reading it at some other time, some other place, and without the support of articles to which we refer. This is a rare instance, I think, of something that's actually more difficult in a wiki than on paper. Perhaps the software could be modified to improve the visibility of the date an article was written (and each of its edits)?

This is a very interesting and valid point. It can be o.k. to have a page with the w:top grossing movies, but that page should (as it does) explain when and how it was constructed, and it should invite updates. I have been keeping a list of w:recent celebrity deaths that will obviously need to be refactored once those deaths aren't recent anymore.

Another interesting take on the issue of timeliness is that we can very quickly have a page on any hot topic that people may suddenly find interesting. Perhaps I should write a page about the high school where the shootings took place today. Or, if something big happens in the news, let's say, in East Timor, then we rush there.

--w:Jimbo Wales

Why not indeed supply basic background information (of the sort you find in an encyclopedia) about current events, as a sort of news magazine. Often, the background info is much more important than the current events. If entries like this could be distributed automatically via a mailing list, it could end up being a very useful resource. Just a thought. --w:Larry Sanger

If someone has the time, it might be an interesting experiment to set up a 'headlines' page, that lists recent quality additions to the wikipedia (gleaned from w:New topics, perhaps?) in sort of a Slashdot like fashion (including a short promotional summary and a link to the topic's /Talk page). -- BryceHarrington Well, there's something similar--see w:brilliant prose. I was hoping that everyone would feel free to add to it. It's hard to maintain it just by myself. --w:LMS

Would simply adding a date created and date edited to the pages (manually, by the person creating or editing the page) not help future readers have this sense of context?

The original script UseModWiki does this partially because the original wiki, WikiWiki, does this. Practically speaking, this only has use for the RecentChangesJunkies, because a page that hasn't been commented on for five years may have had a spelling correction last week. Further, different sections of a page are written at different times, often several years apart. Thus the timestamp gives you no indication of the age of what you're reading.

If you deeply grok how wikis work, you must understand the WikiNow. Everything you write (and plan on keeping longer than a week) must be meaningful to a reader five years from now. It will automatically have meaning to junkies today, by the fact that you're writing it today, but it takes a mental shift to think about the future.

Further, and this is really difficult for people to understand, it's fine to not create a page for several years although you make links to it frequently. When someone knows what to write there, someone will fill it in. On MeatballWiki, the page DiaryCollective remains uncreated well over a year even though it has several links to it. (*)

Why does this happen? Wikis are a repository of information, not a serial of successive ideas. Consequently, one can say they are atemporal. There is no meaningful time context on any page unless you explicitly build it, and inevitably that time context loses its grasp in the future.

There is no past. There is no present. The future hasn't happened yet. Totally confusing, right?

It's simple, though. Just write time objectively. Don't say, "today" or "recently". Write absolute times when times are necessary. Don't mention time when it isn't necessary.

(*) This sentence is an example of a failure to do this. Repeating it here:

On MeatballWiki, the page DiaryCollective remains uncreated well over a year even though it has several links to it.

One day, the page DiaryCollective might exist or we might decide to eliminate all links to it. Thus, we state this objectively:

On MeatballWiki, the page DiaryCollective remained uncreated well over a year even though it had several links to it.

In other words, write present events in the past tense. For an encyclopaedia, this pressure to avoid subjectivity is a good thing, I think. -- SunirShah

But putting it in past tense has another unintended effect: it makes it appear as though the page currently exists, and it was only in the past that it did not. It also makes it appear that it was less than 2 years before it was created. I think this is a good example of a case where it's very difficult to write something that will continue to be correct and not misleading no matter how the future proceeds. Dcoetzee 00:34, 11 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Interesting article from IBM about visualization of wiki page's change history (where changes in wikipedia pages itself are reserched) is at http://researchweb.watson.ibm.com/history/index.htm

Collaborative authorship[edit]

  • Collaborative authorship: A Wikipedia article need not have an "author", in the sense of some person or group who created all the text and who is responsible for it. I think it is good that most authors don't identify themselves, and I think it is good for the project that all authors feel free to edit, re-arrange, and build on others' work. I think perhaps that some might actually not feel free enough, and should do more. While we cannot use copyrighted work from non-free sources, and we cannot modify work from otherwise-free sources that forbid derivative work, we can (and I think should) use, modify, edit, and rework free texts (in particular other Wikipedia pages, public domain sources, and other open content) when doing so will result in a better final product. Some otherwise-free sources will want credit, so we should have a method for noting collaborative credit on a page when necessary. For instance, "This page is based on <link to free source> and work by various unknown authors."
Why should the author of a text be unidentified? What good does this bring? I would like to see that everthing written was marked with who wrote it. I think everyone should stand for what they have to say and don't hide. I'm curious about how I could be wrong. (Maybe I am!?) /j.
I think Wiki does a good job of balancing anonymity of authorship. If you want to find out who wrote a piece of an article, you can, using the history, and provided they have an account you can contact that person. On the other hand, if some highly visible message were displayed in the article, this would be discouraging edits; many would see an attribution of authorship as a "claim" on the article, and it may cause friction between major editors and minor editors.
Of course, just because it's possible to discover the author of a particular piece of an article doesn't mean we shouldn't make it more convenient. CVS, for example, has an annotate feature that displays for every line the version in which it was last modified. Moreover, one might argue the casual reader wanting to contact a writer, who might not be familiar with the technology, should be able to.
Dcoetzee 00:45, 11 Apr 2004 (UTC)


  • Opinions: Encyclopedias (rightly, I think) try to avoid controversial opinions. I think a headlining article on a topic should be as factual as possible, but I also think it should link to opinions: Maybe we could have a standard "/Opinions" subpage (which differs from "/Talk" in being a list of pointers to finished essays rather than an active discussion). Each page describing a poker game, for example, could have a /Talk subpage where people describe their experiences with the game, and an /Opinions subpage pointing to longer essays where various people express detailed opinions about the game or how they would improve it.

I have a very strong disagreement with this one. Wikipedia IS an encyclopedia. The wikipedia should write neutrally about opinions, but the wikipedia should not put forward opinions. There is no need to shy away from controversial opinions -- but there is every reason to shy away from asserting those opinions. --w:Jimbo Wales

That's sort of what I had in mind, but I may not have been very clear about it. I certainly didn't mean to imply that Wikipedia should never hold a controversial opinion, only that when I look up a subject here, I should find factual essays about that subject, a well as pointers (i.e., links, perhaps with brief descriptions) of relevant opinions on the subject. And maybe the physical storage and mechanism of the wiki is useful for keeping those essays as well. For some subjects, that's quite possibly all there can be--a summary of the relevant opinions in the field with pointers to them. Certainly they must be prominently labelled as such, maybe even something like differently-colored pages?

For my part, I agree with most of this. -- w:Larry Sanger

Moved comment to w:neutral point of view.

  • Availability: In the US, Japan, (western) Europe, and many other countries, there's (free) access to the Internet available at home, at work, in schools and universities, even on mobile devices. The information is nearby wherever, whenever you need it (well sort of), without having to carry a 20-volume paper encyclopedia with you. --Magnus Manske

  • Hypertext links: Text is not hypertext. Links are an extremely valuable feature that is not found in ordinary texts. They highlight the interrelatedness of things. They help people discover new stuff. Always make a point of linking articles to relevant articles.

  • People reading from a screen: Although I was not able to find any actual research corroborating this, it is generally accepted that reading from a screen is harder than reading from paper.

As a consequence (assuming for a second this is indeed true), much more care should be taken to present the information in a way that is as easy to use as possible.

This means:

  • Use lists to present list data;
  • Use short paragraphs, with one idea to each paragraph;
  • Use headings, and use different levels of heading;
  • Use lots of hyperlinks and give them meaningful link texts; and
  • Use plain English wherever possible.

The latter is more or less automatic in Wikipedia when linking to entries, as the name of an entry corresponds most of the time with the link text.

Using this method has another advantage; web surfers are quick to jump to other pages. If we want to keep their attention somehow, we need to make sure that they can find the information they need as fast as possible. A well-structured, well-hyperlinked article helps them do just that.

For further information on how people read from screens, see Jakob Nielsen's article How Users Read on the Web.

Please add to this list and comment.

Wikipedia is not paper. There are no restictions to the number of references and links one can make in an article, save some common sense restrictions--don't highlight every word in a sentence, for example.


Since wikipedia is not paper it can be and is a plurality, we can have numerous articles which describe different conceptions of what some readers may consider one subject.


I must add the obvious and important fact that wikipedia doesn't need trees to be cut down.

  • Unless the servers get their electricity from power plants which burn trees. Which is doubtful. -- Kwekubo 23:36, 2 Aug 2004 (UTC)
I don't know, trees become coal in their old age... :-/ Kent 15:31, 14 Mar 2005 (UTC)

I think that the statement that wikipedia doesn't need "gasoline to be refined to deliver its content" is misleading. One could argue that using the internet to read an encyclopedia article over buying a paper encyclopedia saves trees, but the argument that it saves petroleum is much harder to argue. Remember that every computer has parts built all over the world, shipped to an assembly location, shipped to a retail location, and subsequently, uses power resources (remember that the US is still dependent on fossil fuels for electricity (and, for example, hydroelectric building projects, nuclear power plants, and photovoltaic cells are built with and/or by petroleum and further would not be anywhere near their currently low prices without cheap and abundant petroleum). It could be a misconception that using computers over buying paper products helps the environment (much like fuel cell cars don't inherently do anything good for the environment. Fuel cells aren't a fuel source, but an energy transport system. Fossil fuels still produce the hydrogen for them to run, so the net environmental effect (because of the energy cost of conversion) could actually be higher for fuel cell cars). Further, a paper encyclopedia could be printed on hemp or 100% post-consumer recycled paper. Who knows. I recommend something more like: "Because you only access the articles you are interested in rather than buying a huge set of books and because the articles are stored in a central location, accessible by anyone with an internet connection, Wikipedia has the potential to do less harm to the environment than traditional glossy-paper encyclopedias." Johnathlon 10:13, 12 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Anybody at home?[edit]

Peace to you and all,

It took me quite a long time to find a slot where I can post my six month experience with wikipedia, something I believe is worth sharing with the wikifathers.

If it is not the right place or time, please send me a note to stop me (info@apogr.hu) , else, please continue reading my contribution which will not be finished when I abandon this thread later. I may resume writing here subject to your reactions, if any.

1. wikipedia is not a book – yet it does not reflect this fact or wish in the metaphors used. For instance, to me it is a huge ball (a coil?) that you wind, sometimes into smaller balls. It is not a tree, it is not forks and branches, at least it should not be conceived as such, because of the more useful and more enlightening treatment of the user interface as being of ring structure. If follows from that that you do not have stubs, but ends of various threads waiting for someone to join his/her homespun yarn with promising directions.

English is not my native tongue, so discussing and finding the right English metaphors is certainly not my best faculty, yet I hope you can get me. When you create a category for instance, to me, you make a knot. When you talk about disambiguation, a very clumsy and misleading term to use, you are in fact focusing (zooming up and down) on the end of the thread to determine the several possible targets to connect to, one of them may be something you freshly add in situ, or any others that can be reached by reference (links, references, etc.).

Disambiguation cannot be conceived as the problem of sorting out homonyms only. The problem at hand is not at word level. The problem is related to chunking, the way we think and chop up continuous strings of input. Think about that.

2. wikipedia is not a dictionary. But wiktionary is not either. In fact, that spin-off is rightly regarded as the most amateurish piece of venture of the whole project, a definite waste of time. You should have realized that and why by now. If not, I could elaborate on that in due course.

The problem there is again related to word as the smallest meaningful unit of the collections/directories of wikipedia, a project heavily loaded with the problems of translation and not applying some fundamental premises and conclusions of translation methodology.

3. wikipedia is open-ended, dynamic. Yes, almost, provided that the work around editing articles will be organised as an assembly as opposed to the conquest of blank space. If it is to be dynamic, it should be a device for recording thinking and sharing, not marking the individual territorial limits and privileges.

You may want some examples. In the wikipedia mutation I am hanging about the editors quite rightly inform the readers on what they are interested in, what their contributions are, etc. This is separation declared. An alternative approach would be: This is the list of people with whom I have been developing a line, the names of people who helped me sort out a whatnot, and the list of subjects where I am most willing to add something to another editor or author – without deleting.

So much for a starter. What do you think?


My most shocking experience with wikipedia is that nobody asks a question, most people try to teach you and a couple of people don’t ask or comment, but delete.

Thread continued: Now I have logged in. you can call me by names now.

4. wikipedia is technology driven. Most of the time discussion is on how to articulate your ideas to make them wikiconform, a very surprising requirement from an open and free spirited venture. Especially so when at the end of the day it is the technocrat who tells you what content may fit in and what not in the collection of "popular wisdom". That way the freedom of expression is not an applicable term or certainly less relevant than, say in Richard Brautigan's book: The abortion and something I cannot recall.

Can you recall? Apogr 08:08, 9 Sep 2004 (UTC)

  • Should Wikipedia articles evolve into online courses?: Both come in digital form. Both are accessed by people who want to learn something. Online courses should be more effective for learning... w:Jose Icaza
2002-09-13 Some small examples belong in a encyclopedia but a compleet course, should that not be a independent project ? Or you must give a new meaning to the word "encyclopedia". -- user:giskart


Should this be an excuse for poorly written articles? Should we force users to use such features as the search engine or their browser's "Find on this page"? Or should be strive to make it possible for people to find what they are looking for the old fashion way as well? The reason I ask is this:

(from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia_talk:Manual_of_Style_(lists) :)

  • If you look through a list for a particular name, say Beethoven or Marx, I am sure you will look at the last names. It is far easier to say those last names if they are all in a nice neat line. Susan Mason
    • Susan/Lir/Vera -- use your BROWSER'S SEARCH FUNCTION for pete's sake! -- Tarquin 14:34 Mar 10, 2003 (UTC)

Even though Wiki is not paper, I think we should refrain from depending on the www to provide navigation both between articles and within articles. This is one of the reasons that I am for the {surname}, {name} syntax for people's names in lists.

  • In any case, if you were looking for a particular person, why would you be looking through a list at all? Surely you'd just use Wikipedia's search. Lists, if they're for anything, are for browsing, I would have thought [...]Camembert

I am not convinced that these lists are primarily used for "browsing" but are used also as tools for find a desired article.

So my question: Is Wiki is not paper and excuse for poorly written articles? Robert Lee

A question of limits[edit]

The most obvious difference is that there are, in principle, no size limits in the Wikipedia universe.

I don't believe this is technically true. In principle, the universe is, as far as we know, bounded and finite, so even if all the universe is dedicated to storing one copy of Wikipedia, and each bit is represented in an optimal fashion (say, in the spin of particle, or some other funky quantum computing way), there is still a finite number of bits that can be stored. How many bits? I'm making a guess based on the size of the universe and the size of typical sub-atomic particles, and guessing somewhere in the range of 10^50 to 10^60 bits. I'd guess there's probably some information theory that could be applied here, too.

There's also the practical question (!) of whether a copy of Wikipedia would be useful if there were no one to perceive and understand it; you'd need to except out the smallest possible amount of matter and energy necessary for intelligent thought. It's possible that a Wikipedia of that magnitude would in some way be sentient, in which case no leftover perceiving matter would be necessary -- Wikipedia would be a Spinozan-style image of God, a perfect (!) thought that thinks itself. --Evan 23:32, 20 June 2006 (UTC)Reply

I had another idea -- a single copy of Wikipedia that is stored across all of space and time. That is, the entire universe is dedicated to one "frame" of the data of Wikipedia at t0, then at t1 a "new" frame is stored, and so on through the 10^9 (?) years of of the universe's total age. You could think of it as a stream of data with an incredibly huge bandwidth. It's an open question as to how a new state would be "programmed" onto the universe, and I'm not sure what the minimum state change time is for any given particle or whatever. This would be a good way to gain maybe, I dunno, 20 or 30 more orders of magnitude to the number of bits storable? I think that it's a pretty good system, but you lose out some important abilities (like searching or ever reading a page twice). It might be a good tradeoff, though. --Evan 23:45, 20 June 2006 (UTC)Reply
Err. you cant write about the universe more that it has to offer. So anything that doesnt fit inusde the finite universe is original research :P -- Cat chi? 09:01, 10 August 2006 (UTC)
Wiki is limited because we need to remember this is costing someone a lot of money to keep running. These servers, bandwidth, and the administration of both are not cheap. There is a top end (though we haven't seen it yet) to wikiapedia, realistically. -- 18:38, 14 August 2006 (UTC)Reply

offline readers can't guess acronyms[edit]

Go ahead and use tons of acronyms, users can just click to find out what they mean... unless they are offline and cannot access it! Even worse are those WP:XYZ links. --Jidanni 2007-02-01


I might suggest moving this page to "Wikipedia is not paper", to prevent using "wiki" as a synonym for "Wikipedia". This can be confusing for beginners.--Ziko-W 19:02, 8 August 2008 (UTC)Reply

Well, even though it does mention Wikipedia several times, the argument that such-and-such site "is not paper" is relevant to all the wikis, not just Wikipedia. EVula // talk // // 19:30, 8 August 2008 (UTC)Reply
Could we have a slightly less jarring title with "A wiki is not paper"? — μ 17:08, February 21 2011 (UTC)

Jimbo Wales[edit]

Do we have to bring up his name every 2 seconds? "Jimbo Wales said this. Jimbo Wales said that." It's really irritating. -- 02:49, 27 April 2011 (UTC)Reply

Seconded. Extra999 (talk) 09:52, 19 July 2012 (UTC)Reply

Proposed move[edit]

Since this page deals primarily with Wikipedia, it should be moved to Wikipedia is not paper (or if it expands to discuss multiple wikis, then Wikis are not paper). King jakob c 2 (talk) 14:29, 15 April 2013 (UTC)Reply

The move sounds OK to me (and you've now done it :P), but note the comment by EVula above. Still, this page is about Wikipedia, so this is probably the best place for it to be at. Ajraddatz (Talk) 14:37, 23 August 2013 (UTC)Reply

Reverse naming[edit]

"There is no reason to use the reverse naming in most cases, just because paper encyclopedias do that."

What is reverse naming? Benjaminikuta (talk) 17:32, 13 October 2018 (UTC)Reply

Probably using last name, first name like Bush, George W. instead of George W. Bush. Hanif Al Husaini (talk) 08:47, 13 October 2019 (UTC)Reply