A trope we can all relate to, and one of the most prominent reasons behind why TV Tropes Will Ruin Your Life. You're probably doing it right now, or if you aren't you will be by the time you finish this article.
A Wiki Walk is a train of thought that left the track and is Riding into the Sunset. When going for a Wiki Walk you know where you begin, but no one knows where you'll end. Are you a Mad Scientist building an orbital death ray? Well, too bad, inspiration struck and now it's the world's biggest dancing dish washer with a fully adjustable cup holder. You want to have a serious talk about the Middle East? Within ten minutes you'll be arguing whether Darth Vadercould takeGandalfin a fight. Just want to check the Rule of Cool page? Before you know it you're adding examples to Bungling Inventor. You, my friend, have just had a Wiki Walk.
The key feature of a Wiki Walk is that if someone were to see only the beginning and end of the Wiki Walk it would seem completely random, while in fact there was a series of thoughts that connected the beginning and end result, or it is at least implied that this is the case.
Despite the name, the phenomenon itself has existed since long before wikis — computers and hyperlinking simply made it faster and easier.
If in a mystery, it could easily cause a Eureka Moment, or possibly a Bat Deduction depending on how out-of-nowhere it feels.
A common version of this trope is when a Wiki Walk is still in progress at the end of a scene, and then we catch the end of the conversation, which usually takes the form of a Noodle Incident, in the beginning of a later scene.
A Cloud Cuckoo Lander is particularly susceptible to these, though we mostly only hear the end result. This is most likely responsible for the stranger half of any Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering? moment.
If there is a database involved it will usually overlap with an Archive Binge, and is one of the reasons Tv Tropes Will Ruin Your Life.
A Sub-Trope of this is the Halfway Plot Switch, when the plot seems to do this.
Named for the ability of anybody to start out on a page and, two or three links later, find himself reading a totally unrelated trope. Definitely an example of Truth in Television. Often cannot be recreated, as anyone who has spotted an interesting trope en route, planned to come back to it, and then forgotten what it was, will attest. Doing it intentionally for fun is known as "playing Wiki Tag."
Thankfully however there is the ever helpful "open in new tab" function on your browser...
People over at http://thewikigame.com/ have turned this into a game! The objective is to get from one article, to a completly different article in the fewest number of clicks.
For an academic paper on the subject (although possibly not a peer-reviewed one — there is no title of an academic journal displayed), go here.
Here on TV Tropes, tropers are asked to not leave links to pages on or off the wiki in place of contextualized examples because (among other reasons) tropers are incredibly prone to the Wiki Walk.
See also Browser Narcotic.
Aki in Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu does this several times, the most notable one being in the second OVA. The viewer is shown a long series of thoughts - none of which makes any sense - while the other characters are left wondering how Shimada saying that Himeji might change schools has anything to do with whether Hideyoshi would still love Aki if he had a mohawk.
The titular character of Haruhi Suzumiya will occasionally fall into one of these.
One episode of Haruhi-chan opened with Haruhi watching cherry blossoms fall and mumbling to herself about "hiding the bodies," and ended with an idea for a field trip/treasure hunt (mostly an excuse to have Kyon dig a hole). Luckily Itsuki was on hand to describe each stage in Haruhi's thought process, just from knowing the starting and ending points.
(Sub) Haruhi: Hmm... cherry blossoms... petals falling... blood splattering... dig a hole... bury... under the cherry blossom...
(Dub) Haruhi: Hmm... cherry blossoms. Cherry blossom petals fluttering to the ground... blood spraying... digging a hole... burying... under a cherry tree.
In Ichigo Mashimaro, Miu had a train of thought that started with baseball and culminated with the realization that Nobue's birthday was the next day. It went something... like this (direction changed to limit confusion):
Baseball > Broken bones > Skeleton > Ghosts > Things that disappear > David Copperfield > Burned out on magic > Reveals how tricks work > Birthday
Osaka doesn't just Wiki-walk, she Wiki-pole-vaults.
Orihime Inoue's daydream in Bleach begins with her and the main character, Ichigo, on a romantic walk in the park, which turns into a race against an African-American athlete, ending in her victory (in a boxing match), and immediately followed by an attempted assassination.
She is shown doing so from time to time. Example: once during the Rukia rescue arc, Ishida saw her crying, and she explained she was just looking at the sun, proceeding to compare the sensation to many other unrelated things - in order, sneezing, feeling like going to the bathroom while in a bookstore and feeling the gums bleeding while biting on an apple.
By far the best is when she has to say goodbye to a sleeping Ichigo:
"Ichigo... there were so many things I wanted to do. Become a teacher... or an astronaut... or open a pastry shop... or go to Mr. Donuts and say 'Give me one of each!'... or go to Baskin Robbins and say 'Give me one of each!' If only there were five of me! Then I could be born in five different towns, and eat five different meals, and have five different jobs. And all five of me... could fall in love with the same guy. ... Ichigo. Thank you. Goodbye."
Yuuki from Kanamemo at one points starts rambling about sneezing caused by curses, straw dolls and wood shortage, indicating that something is not quite right with the usually quiet woman — and she indeed collapses from high fever shortly after.
An old man in Nichijou manages an impressive one about how miserable his life is starting with how nobody came to his online chat party, to people leaving the bus when he got on, to a goof up on a school trip, to insomnia, to gaining weight, and ending on how his last birthday present was a roll.
In Durarara!!, Shizuo decides to ask his new Russian Kohai/human encyclopedia, Vorona, about Siberia. This somehow morphs into a lecture on cakes.
Vorona: Siberia. The correct pronunciation of which is Сибирь ([sʲıˈbirʲ]), may denote a Federal District of Russia or a wider area. The meanings are many-layered. And in Japan they also call a certain kind of dessert Siberia. Explanations vary as to how the name originated, among which a theory exists that it comes from the delicious fillings inside the Castella resembling the tundra and railways in Siberia. The Castella is said to be the first cake variety to be introduced to Japan. After that the Japanese developed their unique cake culture under various influences from different countries. The variety called the shortcake is also uniquely Japanese. At Christmas the Japanese are especially big on cakes, and on the streets all kinds of cakes send tantalizing smells to my nasal cavity.
Yuyushiki is basically Wiki Walk: The Anime with the three title characters forming a club to randomly look up words or phrases on the internet and following where their train of thought takes them.
Captain B. McCrea from WALL•E receives some major character development using one of these. He starts by asking the computer to define "Earth," and ends on "Dancing," after passing through "Sea," "Farms," "Pizza," and "Hoedown."
In Finding Nemo Dory starts to go down this path several times, but she is usually stopped.
Discworld has Leonard of Quirm, whose inventions are rarely what he initially intends because he gets distracted along the way.
The Discworld GURPS supplement has a special ability for the above: every time you create something there's a chance you might create something revolutionary but unrelated.
Lord Vetinari has, in fact, spent many a long afternoon speculating on the fate of the world if Leonard should ever maintain his focus on any one thing for longer than an hour.
The man sketched instructions for a nuclear weapon in the margins of a sketch of a flower. He thought it might make a good mining tool, but had no military application because no-one would be willing to use it (a Shout-Out to Nobel and dynamite).
"Bloody Stupid" Johnson had the same habit, except he tended to mix up his links mid-Walk and end up with stuff like a pipe organ that interlocks with a bathroom's plumbing.
In "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" by Edgar Allan Poe, Auguste Dupin shows off his general awesomeness by tracking the narrator's train of thought through fifteen minutes of silent walking and several mental topic shifts, and saying exactly the right thing at the end.
Later imitated by Sherlock Holmes, who was tracking Watson's thoughts at the time.
The Icelandic monk Sulien, in Dorothy Dunnett's King Hereafter, takes Wiki Walks across the world. For example, in a simple trip from Scotland to Rome, he makes it to Russia, among other places across Europe. And it all seems logical at the time.
Lampshaded by one of his friends, who notes that "Only Sulien could be shipwrecked on the east coast while sailing from west to further west."
Richard Meeker's Better Angel (written in the early 1930s) shows its bookish protagonist taking a Wiki Walk through a paper encyclopedia:
It was like a tantalizing game. One word would lead to another, and that to a third, until he would have a half dozen of the heavy volumes piled on the floor around him. It was disturbing, and not very satisfactory — whetting his curiosity rather than appeasing it.
The main character of Scrubs, JD, experiences daydreams that cause him to go on three-part wiki walks. The trigger comment, the daydream, and his verbal response.
Amusingly lampshaded in later seasons, where they show the trigger comment but the camera stays "in the real world", where JD's friends comment on how he's about to snap out of it with a completely off-the-wall comment. He doesn't disappoint.
"We're gonna need a whole lotta gnomes!"
Doug the drug rehab man does this frequently with names of drugs in Little Britain.
To date, things the DaColbert Code has been right about include ten correct Oscar picks and a Presidential election.
An episode of Step by Step had Cloudcuckoolander Cody give advice for dealing with a hickey through a crazily meandering chain of word associations, before finally coming back around to "Wear a turtleneck!".
QI is more a televised, bloody funny Wiki Walk than anything else.
Constable Frank Gladstone from The Thin Blue Line is a master of this, often omitting the intervening steps and just announcing his seemingly random conclusions to his perplexed comrades.
In a flashback episode of The West Wing, Press Secretary C.J. Cregg uses this to remember a reporter's name.
An example that predates the Web would be James Burke's BBC series Connections and it's succesor series which would take two seemingingly unrelated facts or inventions and through a fascininating chain of thought demonstrate how they were inextricably linked. For example, the show detailed precisely how the creation of the credit card lead inevitably to the invention of the nuclear bomb.
Phillip, The Watson of Kamen Rider Double, reacts this way when he's introduced to a concept with which he isn't familiar. Minutes later, you can expect the whiteboards all around Double's Elaborate Underground Base to be covered in random snippets of information about the subject, in various languages.
Michael Scott uses this to demonstrate his technique for memorizing names in "Lecture Circuit".
"Baldy. Your head it bald. It is hairless. It is shiny. It is reflective, like a mirror. M. Your name is Mark."
Well, a common technique for remembering names is to associate the name with a prominent physical characteristic. And for some names, that takes considerable mental gymnastics.
In the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC in Mass Effect 2, files on Grunt reveal his web searches, in which he started looking for information on Urdnot Wrex and wound up reading about dinosaurs.
Thisxkcd shows us the danger of falling into these. (The image is reproduced above, but, as usual with Munroe, the punch line is in the alt-text.)
He makes the point again in the alt-text of this comic. Apparently if start with any article and click the first non-italicized link not in parentheses in every subsequent article, you'll eventually end up at philosophy. One route that works is to start with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxyradio series.
Thanks to YouTube's "related videos" section occasionally popping up strange choices, it is entirely possible to do this there. Going from Johann Strauss to Joe Satriani via Yosemite Sam, for example.
Certain adult video websites that function in a similar way to YouTube can also cause this effect. Not like you would notice.
A website, the Six Degrees of Wikipedia, has been coded that will allow you to put in two pages in Wikipedia, and find the shortest path from one to the other. thus taking a Wiki Walk for you.
In this Natalie Tran video, one of the featured comments from the previous video claims it takes three clicks to get from the Wikipedia page about her to the one about Hitler. She says she'd like to see proof of this. Viewers were only too happy to oblige. You are hereby challenged to try without first looking at the multiple solutions.
The Salvation War has a gorgon in "Armageddon" (Book 1 of 3) learn of the "invocations of 'goo gul' and 'wiccan pee-dee-ah'" only to fall victim to this effect:
"The last was protected by an insidious spell that caused her to constantly lose track of what she was looking for, flipping from page to page until she was reading irrelevant nonsense about 'collectible card games' and 'sonic the hedgehog'."
Extra Credits suggested invoking this as a method to get students to link ideas together in their "Gamifying Education" episode. Of course, they also suggested making sure the students explain why each leap in the walk was valid.
Less Wrong is one of these for those who are interested in being rational. There are links in the text of posts to other posts.
Imageboards can have a similar effect. You open up a discussion you like, then you go through all the discussions on that board. By the time you're done new threads have started and you have to check all those. Then you have go back to see if anyone has added to discussions you have already been in, and then you just keep hitting the refresh button until new threads start.
This is also how the Super Friends used to solve the Riddler's riddles. Make of that what you will.
In one episode of King of the Hill, Bobby joins a school club specializing in pop culture studies, and everyone quickly realizes he's a master of pop culture quizzes. But as pop culture study becomes work rather than play, he becomes more distressed. Then, during one moment while in a shopping center, his mind suddenly starts topic-linking lots of trivia in a continuous Wiki Walk tree of thought that doesn't stop, and this triggers a panic attack that causes him to pass out.
In one episode of The Simpsons, Marge is trying to find a way to bring culture to Springfield:
Marge: Think Marge think. Culture, vulture, birds of prey, pray in a church, The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, ghosts are scary, scary rhymes with Gary... That's it, Architect Frank Gehry!
Some Looney Tunes cartoons wind up as something like this. One example is The Rabbit of Seville, where Bugs & Elmer Fudd's Escalating War starts with axes and ends with Fudd putting on a bridal dress and marrying Bugs.
Family Guy is good at this. One good example is the episode "I Dream of Jesus," which begins with lunch at a 1950s style diner, moves on to Peter becoming obsessed with a Trashmen song, and winds up being about the return of Jesus Christ.
The game Wikiball (starting at random page and getting to another) is basically one giant Wiki Walk. Nabhani (disambiguation) to Avatar? Nabhani → Oman → Education → Humanities → Internet → BBC → Broadcasting → DVD → Video → Film → Animation → Anime → Anime-influenced animation → Avatar: The Last Airbender
Variants on this game put restrictions on what you're allowed to click on. It is also known as wikiracing, when it is played in a competitive form, with the aim being to get from one page to another either in less time or less clicks than your competitors.
Free association is a form of psychotherapy that, at least in one form, is essentially a mental Wiki Walk. (The game "word association" is a multi-player version of this.)
In the SoCal region, this is generally referred to as "Wiki Surfing."
This combined with a tabbed browser is one cause of what could be called Wikitabs: tabs so tiny that they're completely indistinguishable (A problem solvable by using the firefox extension "Read it later" instead).
Tabbed Browsing is the bane of everyone with ADHD.
This is older than the Internet. "Birdwalking" is something teachers always have to avoid; "jumping to subjects away from the intended subject." The term is at least 25 years old, if not more so.
And like Wiki Walking, it's created its own game, but more for the spectators than the participant. The goal is to get your teacher to tell stories about their past for the remainder of the class. Some teachers are more cooperative than others, creating a range of difficulties from Easier Than Easy (new teachers trying to connect to students) to Nintendo Hard (usually old ladies that actually think they're teaching you something useful).
British entertainer Bob Monkhouse also did this weekly on one of his later shows. Audience members would shout out two subjects at random, and he would improvise a flawless chain of connections every time.
It's been said that "A dullard is someone who can open a dictionary and look at the definition of only the word he was looking for."
BBC Radio One runs Jo Whiley's Tenuous Link and Dave's Tedious Link.
Back when the internet was young, around early 90's, this was hyped as a feature. The thought process is that you can find everything, even the most random information.