Mar 15 2009

Let’s call Wikipedia what it is — a documii

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Wikipedia has grown orders of magnitude beyond the traditional concept for an encyclopedia. We need to describe it as something more appropriate. I propose we describe both Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Foundation as a “documii,” Latin-ish for a global mass of documentation.

If we want to compare “documii” to something in the real world, we’d use a mass plural noun like “atmosphere” (a global air mass) or “seven seas” (a global water mass) or “virii” (a global mass of malicious computer software).

Let us say “documii” to describe a global knowledge mass, similar to the atmosphere or the seven seas or virii.

I mean, let’s face it: you can’t call Wikipedia an encyclopedia anymore. You don’t turn to Encyclopaedia Scientifica when you want to know who went by the handle ‘Chameleon’ in the hacking group ‘Rhino9.’ You don’t consult Funk & Wagnalls to read up on a backstage fictional book character or a second-fiddle TV character. You wouldn’t turn to Encyclopaedia Brittanica to learn who wrote the Optix Pro backdoor tool. And you definitely wouldn’t refer to Microsoft Encarta to learn which broadcaster voiced the color commentary at the 1996 World Series of Poker main event.

Indeed, Wikipedia exceeds even the scope of its own ‘encyclopedia’ article. All previous encyclopaediae focused on one language (Latin, English, etc.) and/or catered to one country (Britain, Russia, etc.). Wikipedia has third-level domains for many languages and offers centricity for many countries.

Calling it an encyclopaediae won’t suffice, as it doesn’t signify a mass plural noun. And let’s face it: even the most grandiose collection of knowledge in book form wouldn’t tell us who went by the handle ‘Chameleon’ in the hacking group ‘Rhino9.’ Wikipedia documents knowledge great and small.

It isn’t even enough to use the word “Wikipedia” as a self-referencial mass plural noun. The encyclopedic portion stands among many grandiose projects that include a learning center, a dictionary & thesaurus, a library of quotations, a species guide, a newswire, and so on. We need to describe both Wikipedia and its parent, the Wikimedia Foundation, with the same mass plural noun.

Some people will ask “why documii, and why not wikii?”

And even the shortened form “wiki” won’t suffice, as that term now describes any given single compendium of knowledge, e.g. Memory Alpha (not to mention its illegitimate sibling, Memory Beta).

In mathematical terms, Wikipedia is an encyclopedia raised to the power of an encyclopedia. And the Wikimedia Foundation is even bigger than that. We can no longer describe them with a singular term. Again I say: we need a mass plural noun to describe Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Foundation.

“Documii” can be that mass plural noun.

Some people will ask the obvious question. “Why documii? Why not ‘wikii’ instead?” I admit ‘wikii’ would suffice for our needs … but I strongly suggest we need a dissimilar word to avoid confusion. It’s too close to both “wiki” and “wikia.”

Don’t underestimate the need for a dissimilar word here. Too many people look at “encyclopaediae” and think “that must be the old Quaker spelling for an encyclopedia.”

“Documii” can be that mass plural noun.

  • By karrijoNo Gravatar, 31 March 2009 @ 5:33 pm

    I agree…Wellman is a spectacular town. A lot of good people. Though there seems to be an empty spot since our favorite computer geek moved on. Howdy out there to North or South Carolina. We miss you! Give us an email.

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