Wikipedia:xkcd in popular culture

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The popular webcomic xkcd is famed for its Internet-savvy plots and references to obscure science and cult fiction. As a result, people often take subjects which xkcd has covered, run off to Wikipedia and add "xkcd covered this" to a section called "In popular culture" or "External links" or the like.

Most of the time, this is not actually helpful. Popular webcomics do affect popular culture, but not every time they mention a particular subject. The best way to treat "in popular culture" sections of articles is to use them to cover examples which have actually influenced the way that the public looks at the subject. Simply adding in a time that a subject is mentioned in your favourite TV show or comic leads to these sections quickly becoming unmanageable cruft that would be far better placed on a more appropriate site.

Appropriate references[edit]

  • Randall Munroe, the author of XKCD, loves Python. He wrote a strip which implies that using Python is so easy that, if there were a module called antigravity, you could just import antigravity and be flying in five minutes.[1] So for Python 3, the developers actually added this module, which humorously acknowledges the notion by opening a web browser and navigating to the strip in question.[2]
  • Sean Tevis decided to promote his tech credentials by running an ad in an xkcd style during his 2008 State House race.[3] It attracted attention from sources who wouldn't ordinarily be interested in such a race,[4] the campaign received over a hundred thousand dollars from online donations,[5] and in the end the election was definitely closer because of it.
  • Cory Doctorow is an xkcd staple, mostly because he's a famous early adopter of Internet memes and technology. So after xkcd portrayed him as blogging from a hot-air balloon in a cape and goggles,[6] at an awards ceremony, the presenters provided him a costume and he actually dressed up like that.[7]

Inappropriate references[edit]

  • xkcd humorously suggested that the Voynich manuscript was a rulebook for an ancient role-playing game, citing its esoteric language and illustrations as proof.[8] However, it is NOT appropriate to add a reference to the strip within the Voynich manuscript article, because the xkcd strip has had no larger influence on the manuscript itself, nor on the public reception of the manuscript (although it may have made many people aware of it for the first time).
  • A band member of a rock group is seen for a few seconds in a music video wearing a T-shirt that says "xkcd". This should NOT be mentioned in the xkcd article in Wikipedia.
  • Any case where moments after reading an xkcd strip one goes to Wikipedia to check the article on whatever it covered, and adds in a link to the xkcd strip with no further relevance.

How to tell the difference[edit]

When trying to decide if an xkcd reference is appropriate to an article, ask yourself the following:

  1. Has the subject acknowledged the existence of the reference?
  2. Have reliable sources which do not generally cover xkcd pointed out the strip?
  3. Did any real-world event occur because of the reference?[9]

If you cannot answer "yes" to at least one of these, you are adding mere trivia. Get all three and you are probably adding valuable content.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "A Webcomic — Python". xkcd. 2007-12-05. Retrieved 2011-03-22. 
  2. ^ "[projects] View of /python/trunk/Lib/". Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  3. ^ "Running for Office: It's Like A Flamewar with a Forum Troll, but with an Eventual Winner". Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  4. ^ "Strangely, I find myself wishing I lived in Kansas : Pharyngula". Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Blagofaire". xkcd. 2007-03-23. Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  7. ^ "Cory Doctorow, Part II « xkcd". 2007-03-28. Retrieved 2009-09-12. 
  8. ^ "Voynich Manuscript". xkcd. Retrieved 2012-11-06. 
  9. ^ Miss Cellania (May 6, 2010). "Inspired by xkcd". 

External links[edit]