The Wikipedia of metaphors

Apparently Wikipedia has been well-known enough to provide a conceptual basis for people to understand other new-fangled concepts since at least September 2005. Loose Wire blog called It’s the Wikipedia of… the “new cliche”. They cite a dozen odd examples of the phrase “it’s the Wikipedia of X”. In most cases, X was referring to a website, often (but not always) a wiki, that was intending to be authoritative or all-encompassing (excellent coverage) on a particular topic. So Wikipedia is the Wikipedia of, well, everything, but for specific domains there may be a better Wikipedia. Any conceivable thing you could think about X, you can find it in the Wikipedia of X. One particularly incongruous example was that of describing the New York Times as “the Wikipedia of newspapers”. …

Really, you don’t gain much from this comparison that is missing from “the encyclopedia of X”, except that it is online, maybe.

Cogmap apparently claims to be “the Wikipedia of organisational charts”. Here the comparison doesn’t rely on coverage but on the use of a wiki applied to a different type of content: instead of an encyclopedia article, an organisational chart. Many other wikis use this comparison, since presumably knowing what Wikipedia is, is easier than knowing what a wiki is. Wikileaks also relies on this in saying their mission is to develop “an uncensorable Wikipedia”, where clearly they are not actually developing an uncensorable wiki encyclopedia.

Aaron Swartz calls Open Library “an attempt to create a Wikipedia for books”. (Eh, is this not Wikisource?) Besides comprehensiveness, he may also be borrowing the concepts of volunteer-driven and “openness/freedom”, although I suspect this aspect of Wikipedia is little-appreciated by the general public so it may be lost.

Let’s see…

By comparison to Wikipedia, Britannica should be something old-fashioned, whose business model has been destroyed a participatory web-based equivalent.

18 March, 2008 •



It’s like using the term “Linux” when they mean “open source.” Wikipedia is the 800lb gorilla of free content.

David Gerard · 19. March 2008, 02:34


Is that your favourite phrase this week? :) This is like the third message from you I’ve read with it.

pfctdayelise · 19. March 2008, 12:03


BTW — you missed my point. Most of the times they use it they are not referring to free content at all!

pfctdayelise · 19. March 2008, 12:03

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