Wiki Is Nota Dictionary

Please, do not make pages for the words you use unless you are confident such a page would be valuable to this audience. This wiki is not a dictionary. Now there is a wiki that is a dictionary: Wiktionary! It is constructed according to a template guide similar to the following:

An article should have some of these sections (in this order) Accordingly a Wiki is more an exploratorium than it is a dictionary, but even the former needs grounding in some simple concepts, and being 'hyper' about links, Wiki is bound to include some of that simple stuff.

But thank heavens Wiki is much more than just a dictionary. And when we're done hashing this out, let's also give thanks that Wiki is not alphabetically ordered.'' (It can be ordered any way you like, illustrated by the wiki page list generated on this site being alphabetically ordered. and the RecentChanges being chronologically ordered)

Certainly it is important to refrain from deluging Wiki with links to topics completely unrelated to patterns and software development. It is also important that in the process of trimming out unrelated topics, one doesn't trim out too many topics that may be useful to visitors of differing levels of software expertise and those who aren't as BuzzwordCompliant as the general Wiki community.


Maybe we need to view the value of a link over a longer period of time.

Some words "smashed together" can serve as a marker for a future contribution, or an invitation for someone else to start the ball rolling.

I don't mind Wiki looking like a dictionary. It's interesting to see what other people think. -- RichardCollins

Wiki should be more like a dictionary than a chat room. But less like a dictionary than a dictionary. More hyper encyclopedia than dictionary.

Wiki is a programming dictionary. Isn't that what DocumentMode is all about? -- ShaeErisson

Yet-to-be-written pages are part of WhyWikiWorks, especially since when a new page is created the older pages update their links accordingly.

Pages written elsewhere are also part of WhyWikiWorks, and to ignore the possibility of linkages by way of an InterWiki or other appropriate mechanism is to miss the significance of links based on a naming basis, rather than on a location basis. See SisterSites.


Wiki can be driven to pointless tangents by careless formation of hyperlinks. For example, say I use the phrase "Big Mac" in a contribution, alluding to the heavily marketed hamburger. Does Wiki need a definition of Big Mac? No way. Although some readers might benefit from a definition, in light of our AmericanCulturalAssumption(s), such a definition would be better included within the prose as above than as a footnote or hyperlink. Ask yourself: if the page you cite were to be created, would it serve Wiki well as a point of entry in this web of knowledge? -- WardCunningham

I like Ward's point-of-entry test [GoodEntryPoint?], especially since I initially got into Wiki through the JavaIdioms, which the Java Programmer's FAQ (http://java.sun.com/people/linden/faq_d.html#Java%20Idioms) points to.

Sometimes I find myself creating speculative links: in case there's an entry for the thing I'm mentioning, I link to it. Often, there is an entry, and my contribution benefits from its existence. But even links to possibly-existing pages should be limited to pages that should reasonably be expected to exist (e.g. GangOfFour, but not BigMac).

This, of course, implies some notion of what's on-topic for Wiki. My guess would be: programming, and adjacent topics (managing software projects, HistoryOfProgramming?, etc.). -- GeorgePaci


Yeah, but when Wiki goes IPO, your share allocation will be determined by the number of pages you innovated, so the game is to create as many as possible, and make sure your name is clearly visible high on the page. Am I missing something?

Missing something? Perhaps a handful of emoticons: ;-) ;-) -- JohnDoveIsaacs

Oh, yeah. That's my signature omission. -- WaldenMathews 8-)


Wiki is, by definition, whatever its contributors make it. If the contributors want Wiki to be a dictionary, then Wiki is a dictionary. Get over it. -- AndyPierce

This argument is fallacious. It's an argument from an external frame, but that doesn't mean anything to those who actually participate on Wiki. From an internal frame, the question is what should the contributors make it? So, then, this question is still valid.

Not only is it not fallacious, it expresses such a deep truth as to be almost tautological. "What it is, is up to us" as we say.

One person's lack of appreciation for a bit of content may just mean that it is time for that person to make a fight or flight decision--argue your case, make your edit, or take a break, but in any case, own your reaction, rather than projecting your displeasure.

This Wiki can be whatever its users and the medium want it to be. If the users go against the nature of the medium, whatever it will be, it won't be any good.

Making a dictionary out of Wiki is like making a fireplace out of paper.


The concept of WikiNames or WikiWords is wider than the usage described as applying to this wiki. WikiNames are useful and as a result will become more widely used in other contexts. Already there is a WikiNameInRealLifeSyndrome which is an indicator of how subtle is the influence of words used in this manner.


To go back to the Big Mac example above; whilst I'd agree that we probably don't need to have a page for the Big Mac (unless someone has something novel to say about it), what harm would be done by its existence? After all, nobody is forced to look at any of the pages here! The only problems I can see are:

Note that the latter two are not actually arguments against creating Big Mac pages, but against linking to them. I suppose my position is that it's okay to create Big Mac pages, but one should be careful about linking to them.

Hey, wouldn't it be cool if links were visibly weighted, according to how good the destination page was? There could be some sort of GoogleJuice or AdvogatoTrustMetric sort of system which would infer the value of each page, then the WikiEngine would use CSS to color links a different shade of blue (from pure black to pure blue) according to how valuable they were; Big Mac links would be barely different from normal text, whereas links to major pages would be bright blue. -- TomAnderson

Are readers really that unselective in following links? When the only selection criterion available is the page name, yes. If I didn't click on staid boring-looking links like BigMac, I'd probably never have found VeryGoodSeats. -- DanBarlow


One person protested that Wiki is more than just a discussion on software and patterns; it is light relief from the drudgery of the working day! That doesn't mean that nobody appreciates the programming stuff; just that the other stuff is appreciated as well. The more variations there are in Wiki, the more enjoyable it is.

However, the Wiki does not exist primarily to be enjoyable. That is one of its attributes, but not the primary one.


The Wiki IS. It exists, it becomes more through participation of contributors, refactorers, and deleters. It is clear that the page title (a WikiWord) is described (defined) by the text which follows. Sometimes the descriptions are not well ordered or correct, in which case we then have opportunity to complain, correct, add, subtract, detract, delete or do something else about it.

A wiki is an electronic, hypertext linked, changeable, group of pages (collection) with descriptions, illustrations, stories, examples and even definitions of what the page title is.

http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=dictionary

The main distinction is that a wiki defines or describes WordsSmashedTogetherLikeSo (WikiWord), including not only the descriptions, illustrations, stories, examples and/even definitions, but also associations through other WikiWords to other related concepts, views or collections through hyperlinks.

The other distinction is that most dictionaries attempt to appear objective. Most Wiki pages are initially generated by a single person's opinion. There is usually follow-up with agreements, strengthening, disagreements, counter-arguments, leading to summarizations, consensus or delineation of and compartmentalizations.

Is this actually true?! ("Show me the numbers!) Perhaps I'm only attracted by the smell of hot sweat and the sound of panting breath, but what I notice is collaboration in spades.

Most Wiki pages are NOT a definition of what the title IS - those that are often are a bit boring and of little value. The best pages are those that give a new outlook on a concept that everyone thought that they knew, or establish new connections between different concepts, or contain enlightened discussion etc. Take a look at ReallyValuablePages - most of those are not definitions, and those that are on ReallyValuablePages because of the discussion following the definition. Adding lots and lots of definition pages to Wiki would obscure the pages that were put here because of their own value, not in order to have a definition for everything in Wiki. Reading Wiki feels totally different from reading a dictionary, and there are people (like me) who'd like to keep it that way. I am really glad, for example, that VeryGoodSeats does not contain a definition of seat metrics... -- FalkBruegmann


While it is true that Wiki is not a dictionary, it is also true that the wiki format could very well be used to form excellent and useful dictionaries, encyclopedias, thesauruses, interactive novels, schedulers, PersonalInformationManagers?, and the like. It is not form but intention which makes the page title true. Wiki could be all of the things and combinations and conglomerations of all of the things listed. In fact a wiki could be large enough not only to contain an encyclopedia as in WikiPedia, but could contain an entire library of books, articles, encyclopedias, dictionaries, glossaries, financial records, movies, sounds, 3d graphics, games, shopping malls, and universities. The application of wikis is limited only by intent and imagination, not form!


One little anecdote, though, that amused me. Some time back, I saw at least three entries in RecentChanges (maybe there were a lot more of these but I don't know that) with UserName of WardCunningham on some new pages that looked like they had been started by someone who hadn't yet grasped that WikiIsNotaDictionary. On having a look inside, I remember seeing "No definition required" had replaced something rather longer. Not for the first time on Wiki (and hopefully not for the last) I thought "cool" and I went on to mention this example of what I thought was intelligent editing (indeed reduction) on WikiBadge and CategoryEmpty?. On the latter, I thought that it might be cool to give one example of this, with the revered UserName still attached. Exercise for the reader: you try finding any of these pages using FindPage! I couldn't. Does Ward design such amazing effects or does he just intuit them, as BruceAnderson was arguing to me the other day. Whatever the reason, I felt strongly that I wasn't meant to find those pages. That's the whole point. -- RichardDrake

See, for example, AtomicBomb?, which I found with SearchHelper. -- WardCunningham

Now there are extremely valuable dictionary and encyclopedia wikis. Please do contribute to WikiPedia and related sites. Maybe we can convince Ward to make WikiPedia a SisterSite so that we can avoid much redundancy.

Now that's one of the best ideas I've heard on Wiki in ages. . . Seems too obvious though - are we missing the reason this hasn't happened? Yes there is an obvious reason. Think for a moment as to how SisterSite pages are linked to this wiki. (Look for icons at the very bottom of the page.) Because we do not want WikiWords that are Dictionary or Encyclopedic in nature, we certainly do not wand to create a page with the unwanted page name with only a notice to go to the SisterSite.


aside: If you want a dictionary about wiki terms check out the simplistic WikiDictionary at meatball

or you might simply decide that WikiWords need not have definition or description and that any page that offers such within is part of a vast center-wing conspiracy to make Wiki into a "dictionary, and that it needs to be deleted or moved to another place which might accept such things. :)


It is not easy to link to other dictionaries. Thus, until such a feature exists, let Wiki be a computer-terms dictionary.

For example See how wikizens have already formed a series of definitions by naming pages using the prefix of WhatIs. -- DonaldNoyes
CategoryWiki CategoryWikiIsNot

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