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Wiki Walk

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Liquid: I've been up all night doing research.
Ocelot: Research? On what?
Liquid: Well, it was supposed to be on the current geopolitics of modern nuclear weaponry.
Ocelot: This is a Wikipedia page about Mick Jagger.
Liquid: I got slightly sidetracked.

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 has gone off the rails 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 dishwasher 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 Vader could take Gandalf in 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. For example, in the days of paper book encyclopedias, a person would get distracted and sidetracked by articles they paged past on their way to what they were actually looking for.

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, at 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.

Refers to how you could, in two or three links, end up at a trope seemingly unrelated to the page you started from. 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 have turned this into a game! It's called The Wiki Game, and the objective is to get from one article to a completely 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 displayednote ), 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 Schmuck Bait.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Aki in Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts 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.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya:
    • The title character 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 Strawberry Marshmallow, 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
  • In Azumanga Daioh, Osaka doesn't just Wiki-walk, she Wiki-pole-vaults. In one beach episode, she has a one-sided conversation with Sakaki about dolphins, sea lions, and hemorrhoids.
  • 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 point 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.
  • Patty from Lucky Star mentions Otome (Maiden's) Road and launches into a description. The screen then splits to show the Wiki Walk one of her (naive) classmates took when she heard her say "Otome Road" and interpreted it literally.
  • 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.
  • In Cop Craft, a clue of a bulldog tattoo on the elbow comes up in episode 11. When one of the cops identifies the bearer as likely a US Marine who got it before new regulations, citing Wikipedia, her partner responds with a 3-step Wiki Walk from the starter page (M4 Carbine). What she responds with is more like 30 steps.

    Fan Works 

  • 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.
  • At one point in Disney's Tarzan, Tarzan views a slide show of elements of modern (in 1882) British life, to "know about the strangers like me [him]". It is implied that he views every single slide Jane and her father brought because there's a dissolve to Tarzan still looking through slides while they're asleep.

  • Discworld has Leonard of Quirm, whose inventions are rarely what he initially intends because he gets distracted along the way.
    • 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).
    • 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.
    • "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.
    • The Discworld Roleplaying Game supplement has a special character advantage to reflect this sort of thing: it usually gives you a bonus to creative work, but every time you try for something original, there's a chance you might actually come up with something revolutionary but unrelated.
  • Bruce Coville's My Teacher Is an Alien series perfectly describes the Wikipelunking phenomenon, many years before wikis existed. In it, aliens have developed an integrated virtual reality that is perfectly realistic, and used entirely for research purposes, showing the user whatever they want (basically, Wikipedia meets a Lotus-Eater Machine). The aliens have learned to put time limits on the technology so that no one ''starves to death''.
  • 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.
  • Lord Peter Wimsey's mother is famous for constantly going off on a tangent, whenever she speaks—and then on a tangent to the tangent, and so on. Back when the books were written, it was probably great fun to read, if you were reasonably educated and followed the news. These days, it's mostly confusing.
  • A nice early example is in Edgar Allan Poe's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue", where C. Auguste Dupin is able to deduce his friend's chain of thought, which works somewhat like this.
  • In The Outside, Yasira browses a database of information meant to be uploaded into angels' heads, organized in an associative manner that mimics the way thoughts are stored. She finds it hard to get used to, as she keeps getting sidetracked and forgetting the way back.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Stephen Colbert goes on purposeful Wiki Walks on The Colbert Report using The DaColbert Code for purposes ranging from predicting Oscar winners to solving the murder of JFK. To date, things the DaColbert Code has been right about include ten correct Oscar picks and a Presidential election.
  • An example that predates the Web would be James Burke's BBC series Connections and its successor series which would take two seemingly unrelated facts or inventions and through a fascinating chain of thought demonstrate how they were inextricably linked. For example, the show detailed precisely how the creation of the credit card led inevitably to the invention of the nuclear bomb.
  • The Flemish TV-show Iedereen Beroemd has a segment called "Clickipedia", which is, in principle, a televised version of the The Wiki Game, where two couples compete every weekday in getting from one Wikipedia page to another in the fewest amount of clicks.
  • Phillip, The Watson of Kamen Rider Double goes on literal Wiki Walks. He also reacts this way when he's introduced to a concept with which he isn't familiar. Minutes later, you can expect the whiteboards and every other surface available all around Double's Elaborate Underground Base to be covered in random snippets of information about the subject, in various languages.
  • Doug the drug rehab man does this frequently with names of drugs in Little Britain.
  • In The Office, Michael Scott uses this to demonstrate his technique for memorizing names in "Lecture Circuit".
    "Baldy. Your head is bald. It is hairless. It is shiny. It is reflective, like a mirror. M. Your name is Mark."
  • QI is more a televised Wiki Walk than anything else.
  • 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!"
  • 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!".
  • 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. For example: His theory behind rampant graffiti?...Fridge magnets and the parents who use them to put their toddler's childish drawings on the fridge as adorable mementos, which causes the now teen kids to use graffiti as a method of gaining that familiar adoration from standing around the fridge.
  • In a flashback episode of The West Wing, Press Secretary C.J. Cregg uses this to remember a reporter's name.
  • Young Sheldon: In "A Tougher Nut and a Note on File", Sheldon was at first supposed to just catalog the comic books on the store, but he was dissatisfied with the way they were organized and decided to change that. Then when Nathan asks if his idea of an online database could be used for something other than comic books, Sheldon realizes that it could be used for scientific grants, and quickly leaves the store to sell the idea to the university, dropping the comic book database entirely.


  • On an episode of the Martin/Molloy radio show, guest John Clarke opined that the internet was like the modern version of the dictionary. You'd open the dictionary to look up the word 'perspicacity', and three hours later you're discovering all of these new and interesting words but still haven't learned what 'perspicacity' means.

    Video Games 
  • Of course the folks over at The Wiki Game have made a sport of exactly this phenomenon.
  • 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 krogan history and wound up reading about dinosaurs.
    SEARCH: krogan history
    SEARCH: great wars
    SEARCH: genofage / ERASED / krogan victories
    SEARCH: okeer / ERASED / great generals
    SEARCH: toochanka / ERASED / tuchanka
    SEARCH: urnot wrex
    SEARCH: battlemaster shepard / MODIFIED / commander shepard / MODIFIED / commander shepard normandy
    SEARCH: animal fights / MODIFIED / large predators
    SEARCH: tryrannsauros wrex / ERASED / earth lizard wrex
    SEARCH: dinosaurs
  • In Disco Elysium, the Encyclopedia skill governs your ability to remember trivia. This can be very useful in some situations, but quite often it results in your thoughts getting hijacked by ruminating over fascinating fact after fascinating fact rather than focusing on the tasks at hand.


    Web Originals 
  • 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'."
  • Cracked has its own name for this phenomenon: Wikipedia Freefall.
    • Cracked itself, despite not being a wiki, can very easily become one of these due to links in the text as well as "recommended" pages at the end of the text.
    • #5 of 6 New Kinds of Anxiety the Internet Gave Us is "The Irresistible Impulse to Follow a Link Chain".
  • 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.
  • Browsing the SCP Foundation wiki can sometimes lead to this. Be warned, that site can turn creepy fast. It's quite possible to go from "A never-ending pizza box? That's pretty cool." to "Oh, eww, what is that?! Aagh! much quicker than you might think.
  • Links on Nobody Here will often contain more links within them, connecting the stories together and making the reader stray from their starting point. Each page also contains a "random" button at the bottom for more chaos.

    Western Animation 
  • 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.

    Real Life 
  • Creating one of these is more or less the point of Telephone Oracle
  • If you keep clicking on the first non-italic, unbracketed link on any page of the The Other Wiki you'll normally end up on Philosophy
  • The game Wikiball (starting at random page and getting to another) is basically one giant Wiki Walk. Nabhani (disambiguation) to Avatar: The Last Airbender? Nabhani → Oman → Education → Humanities → Internet → BBC → Broadcasting → DVD → Video → Film → Animation → Anime → Anime-influenced animationAvatar: 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 fewer 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.)
  • Wikipedian Tag, which is what happens when you combine Wiki Walking with the game of Tag. Considering the rules have leeway as far as "victory conditions" for the runner(s) go, one could easily append a runner victory for reaching Hitler.
  • 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).
  • TV Tropes. It's a wiki, what else would you expect? Let's face it, you're probably in the middle of one right now. And that is why TV Tropes Will Ruin Your Life.
  • Youtube and its "recommendations" algorithm.
  • Tabbed Browsing is the bane of everyone with ADHD. You open a bunch of tabs and then promptly forget about half of them, only to vaguely remember them several hours later when you've long since got off the computer to do something else. However, it is also a savior, as tossing the interesting link into a tab helps you focus on what you're actually looking for.
  • 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).
  • To celebrate The Other Wiki's tenth anniversary The BBC sent one of its reporters to do a Wiki Walk against the clock in this article. 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 the early '90s, this was hyped as a feature. The thought process is that you can find everything, even the most random information.
  • Wikis aren't the only place this trope shows up. Pinterest is another major offender. You could go to it to find tips on how to organise your wardrobe, and an hour later you could be looking at travel destinations or cat pictures. Imgur's "most viral images" list is also a big trap.

Alternative Title(s): Wiki Walking