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It's Probably a Good Thing I'm Not in Charge
My OrthodoxWiki Philosophy

A Rambling Essay by Fr. Andrew


I've been working on OrthodoxWiki pretty much since it was just the Main Page and a collection of red links, back in November of 2004. I'm not an expert on wiki-software, nor am I a saint, nor am I much of anything at all. Nor am I in charge! But I do claim to have at least a little knowledge on what seems to work here (which is of course worth just as much as you paid for it). I am also one of the sysops, but not The Man.

In most senses, this essay is something of a rant, but let me assure you that it's a good-natured rant whose purpose is essentially to expose my own philosophy of what works best in putting together a collaborative Internet encyclopedia of Orthodox Christianity, the strengths and particular genius which continues to make OrthodoxWiki the only site of its kind.

So, to get things going in this bit of text, let's start with what is, in my mind, most important, namely, stuff that OrthodoxWiki isn't.

This is an Encyclopedia, Not...

A Devotional/Collection of Saints' Lives

Hagiography is a wonderful, beautiful thing. It's a major literary tradition of the Orthodox Church and beneficial to one's soul. But it's not encyclopedic, not even remotely. Certainly, many elements of OrthodoxWiki are in some sense hagiographical in their basic purpose, but as an encyclopedia, OrthodoxWiki's purpose is to give brief, summarizing information on a subject, not:

  • Every title a saint has ever been called.
  • A complete list of famous quotations.
  • A complete collection of relevant texts (see: OrthodoxSource, an as-yet underused resource just waiting to fill up with sources).
  • Gushingly sentimental sentences where nearly every other Word must Indeed be Capitalized, for that is how Someone Important Would Have It.

A Repository for All Your Knowledge

I'm sure you have a lot of great stuff in your head and in your experience, but consider for a moment whether it's really worth putting into an encyclopedia. If you have an encyclopedia on your shelf (or if you have access to a library), take it off the shelf and have a look in it. Notice the kinds of entries that are included. Notice what's not included. The idea of an encyclopedia is to give the answer to the question, "Who or what is [subject]?" It is not meant to be an exhaustive work on any subject.