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I’m nobody. Who are you?

[update: Mr. Baker apologized -- see comment below. That was very nice of him.]

I was laughing in spite of myself through Nicholson Baker’s essay about Wikipedia (agreeing with him on many points, and yet irritated that such a biblio-retro could make me chuckle) when I read:

Someone recently proposed a Wikimorgue—a bin of broken dreams where all rejects could still be read, as long as they weren’t libelous or otherwise illegal. Like other middens, it would have much to tell us over time. We could call it the Deletopedia.

Wait, I thought. Wasn’t I that someone? I had suggested the Wikimorgue in my article last September.

Oh, come on, said the other Self hovering over my head. Big-britches Nicholson couldn’t be referring to me. At most, this is one of those great ideas that a million people came up with before I did.

Naturally, I finally broke down and Googled the phrase, then looked it up in Wikipedia, where (at least as of this writing) I am sourced for that expression. (No, I am not a sock puppet!)

I’m generous enough, and not paranoid enough, to say that when The Economist has a graph or two that’s close to what I said in my piece, I agree they said it well and put their spin on it. There’s nothing new under the sun, and it’s impossible to critique Wikipedia without making sport of what I called its “bureaucratic patois” — the kind of detail that sticks in a reader’s mind.

But anyhoo. What is a citation that does not reference the source? Was Baker too shy or busy — or was he unwilling to give proper credit to one of those “telecommunications enthusiasts” who toss books from libraries willy-nilly when they are not trampling his fair copies and grinding them into microfiche?

Isn’t it peculiar that I sourced this through Wikipedia, with which I have a relationship so complex it rivals that of my family of origin?

Oh, and in a neat twist, we can tie this in to librarianship, because Thomas Mann (the hired gun, not the author) gave me the same Nobody treatment in his latest screed against the proposed cataloging standard, RDA. I’m the citation he references as “Google Blogs.”

Which provides a slant rhyme neatly concluding this post (and for which I can even supply a YouTube video):

I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us—don’t tell!
They’d banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

Posted on this day, other years:

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  1. Cripes, that’s appalling. Way to turn you invisible.

    Tuesday, March 18, 2008 at 8:04 am | Permalink
  2. Burt wrote:

    Aren’t you going to credit Emily Dickinson for the poem??

    Tuesday, March 18, 2008 at 8:53 am | Permalink
  3. Burt, funny. :-) (Like those datelines that explain San Francisco is in California…)

    Tuesday, March 18, 2008 at 10:27 am | Permalink
  4. Nicholson Baker wrote:

    I’m sorry I didn’t credit you. Your fine word Wikimorgue stuck in my mind and I didn’t remember from where, which is why I said “someone.” I should have tracked it down.

    I also didn’t know about Wikidumper, by the way, which is a filtered blog–a sort of tiny proto Wikimorgue.

    Regards and apologies for not giving credit where it’s due.

    Nicholson Baker

    Tuesday, March 18, 2008 at 10:54 am | Permalink
  5. A gentlemanly apology. Thank you, Nicholson.

    Tuesday, March 18, 2008 at 11:24 am | Permalink
  6. Pete Daniels wrote:

    Here, here!

    Tuesday, March 18, 2008 at 2:24 pm | Permalink
  7. and as someone who wrote the Wikipedia piece for the Economist, I can assure you that I didn’t read your CIO article until today…It’s a good one, but, sorry, never saw it before…

    Tuesday, March 18, 2008 at 5:55 pm | Permalink
  8. Evgeny, I totally believe you. Two weeks ago I came up with a brilliant expression to describe the impact of sustainable food consumption: “carbon foodprint.” Alas, a quick search showed I was almost a year too late. I am sure I never saw that expression, and yet it was such a natural pun.

    You, Mr. Baker, and I all latched on to the wikipatois — I don’t know how we couldn’t. (I feel in good company.)

    Tuesday, March 18, 2008 at 10:42 pm | Permalink
  9. Susie Lorand wrote:

    The YouTube video link for “I’m nobody! Who are you?” has to be edited to work. (Very funny once you get there!)

    Wednesday, March 19, 2008 at 7:04 am | Permalink
  10. Whoops! Fixed! Thanks, Susie.

    Wednesday, March 19, 2008 at 7:44 am | Permalink
  11. Rick Hart wrote:

    Fun post, and the Dickinson quote is *almost* perfect — but the last line should read “to an admiring blog”…

    Thursday, March 20, 2008 at 2:42 pm | Permalink
  12. Hah!

    Thursday, March 20, 2008 at 4:19 pm | Permalink
  13. Paul Leader wrote:


    I read Nicholson’s article and the idea of a Deletopedia really struck me. So I decided to set one up, it’s at

    Not sure how well it’ll work, but I think it is worth a try. It’s a blank slate at the moment so I’d welcome any input.

    Personally, I’d rather Wikipedia changed the way it worked to better handle “less notable” content. Until that time, I hope fills a gap.


    p.s. If anyone can think of a good logo, let me know through the site.

    Monday, April 14, 2008 at 5:25 pm | Permalink
  14. Paul, I think that’s a very interesting idea. I wonder if Mr. Baker is reading this. While I agree in principle about W’s policy, I wonder if in the end a Deletopedia isn’t the most pragmatic path. (The logo needs something with the famous W, I believe.)

    Monday, April 14, 2008 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

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