There's more than one TARDIS in our Tardis. So how do you tell the difference between them? Easy: you disambiguate them. But be warned, we do disambiguation differently than other projects — and we're especially different from Wikipedia.

Disambiguation is the fancy term for "giving an article a unique name". It is the act of adding a disambiguation term to the title of an article, so as to ensure that two similarly named things can have unique pages in our database.

Because the word is so long, we often abbreviate it to just dab here. You'll often see us turn the abbreviation into other forms, like dabbed, dabbing, and undab. These shortened forms are often seen in edit summaries, where letter count is at a premium.

Example of dabbing

A practical example is TARDIS. There are tons of TARDISes in the DWU, so to disambiguate them, we add a disambiguation term in parentheses after the word TARDIS.


...and so on.

How other wikis do it

Editors who have primarily worked on other wikis should definitely not assume that they understand disambiguation on this wiki. Generally, the rule on other wikis is that the most commonly linked page gets the un-disambiguated term.

So wikipedia:Benjamin Franklin is about the American revolutionary and inventor who appears on the US$100 bill, while the famous British surgeon is wikipedia:Benjamin Franklin (surgeon).

How we do it

By contrast popularity has nothing to do with whether a title gets a disambiguation term here. We base dabbing decisions largely on whether the topic is in-universe or out-of-universe.

Here, pages having to do with stories always get a disambiguation term. Pages about in-universe topics don't get disambiguated at all, unless there are two or more in-universe terms with that same name. Hence, Castrovalva means the city and Castrovalva (TV story) means the serial, even though the TV serial is linked far more often than the city. Equally, the page Adam Smith is for a character whereas the page for director Adam Smith is Adam Smith (director).

What the hell are you people talking about?

If you've made it this far, and you've joined us after considerable experience of Wikipedia, you're probably scratching your head. So let's take a break, mid-document, to note that you're not going crazy. This is a radical departure from their way of doing things. Indeed, it's one of the most obvious ways in which we're "Wikipedia's evil twin".

Basic principles

Why are there little names in parentheses after a title?

When you start an article, the first choice you must make is how to name it. In this decision, you must choose whether to give it a dab term or not. A dab term is the bit in parentheses which follows the main name. For instance, in the title Castrovalva (TV story), the dab term is "(TV story)".

But why does the serial Castrovalva get a dab term, at all? Why isn't it simply Castrovalva? The reason is that wiki technology requires different concepts to have unique names. The page on the city Castrovalva must have a different name to the TV story, Castrovalva (TV story). Think of it as a technical limitation of this medium. If this were a print encyclopedia, we could have one article called "The Daleks" for the TV story, and one called "The Daleks" for the episode of Doctor Who Confidential. It might be confusing but the book would still "work". You could still use the table of contents and turn the pages to find the articles. Without unique names on a wiki, though, you can't find the exact thing you're looking for.

Why is it Castrovalva (TV story) and not Castrovalva (city)?

The precise way in which we choose to use dab terms has evolved over time on this wiki. From the beginning, though, the guiding principle has been:

Out-of-universe things get dab terms; in-universe things generally don't.

This means that if you have a choice between the city Castrovalva and the story Castrovalva, the city stays at Castrovalva and the story goes to Castrovalva (TV story). This notion was one of the first things decided by our founding editors, and it has gained widespread acceptance by our community.

Note, though, that this is a very different organising principle to that which you'll find on other wikis, like Wikipedia. There, the notion is that relative popularity determines which page goes without a dab term. If we were set up like Wikipedia, Castrovalva would lead to the TV story, because it is by far the thing most people associate with the term "Castrovalva".

But our system isn't like that. We consistently choose to prioritise on the in-universe/out-of-universe metric, giving no weight at all to most linked to /least linked to, or most searched for/least searched for.

A literal problem

If this were a Star Wars or DC Comics database, this stance would be unproblematic. We'd only have a few instances of literal titles — that is, titles that name something from the universe. But authors in the DWU are unusually literal with their titles. Depending on the range, the percentage of DWU stories named for a thing in the universe can be as high as 50%. Many DWU literal titles — like Logopolis, Castrovalva, The Ark, The Ice Warriors, Dalek and Paradise Towers — are named after places or species.

Look at just this one run of five television stories:

Of course, most of our users didn't have too big a problem recognising when television stories had literal names. The real problem is with titles in other media. Do you know, for instance, that:

  • Verdigris is a couple of things in the DWU, not just a novel title?
  • the Gemini Plan was more than just the name of a Third Doctor comic story?
  • The Crystal Bucephalus was actually the name of a restaurant, not just the name of a novel?

You begin to see the problem. There are thousands of story titles. How can the average editor possibly know which will require (novel), (comic story) or (audio story)? The answer is that they can't.

A simple solution

For years, there's been a bit of a steep learning curve imposed by this philosophy. New editors had to figure out on their own which stories got a dab term and which didn't. As we discovered that the title was literal, story names would be moved — and something which had for years been Verdigris, would suddenly be Verdigris (novel). As more and more of these titles were moved, it was decided that the system was becoming overly complicated. Users questioned why some titles had dab terms and others didn't.

Rather than requiring editors to memorise a changing chart of which titles got dab terms and which didn't, we now simply require all story names to have a disambiguation term attached.

Main principles

These basic principles guide the choice of whether to add a dab term to a title:

  1. All story titles get a dab term, as explained further at T:DAB TERM.
  2. In-universe terms never get a dab term, unless there's more than one in-universe thing with that same name. So, Castrovalva means the planet, The Pandorica Opens means the painting, Paradise Towers means the buildings and Miracle Day means the in-universe event. But you will need to dab common names (like Susan), "re-used" species names (like Vogan (Revenge of the Cybermen) and Vogan (The Vogan Slaves)), titles (like Captain) and names that are used for completely different things, like Shada (prison) and Shada (book).
  3. If more than three things share a common name, the un-disambiguated term typically goes to a disambiguation page — a list of all things sharing that name. Hence Nurse, Sergeant, Susan, Bill, Amy, Rose, Martha and the like are disambiguation pages, not specific people.

Those coming from Wikipedia will immediately see how our wiki is different. On Wikipedia, the thing that is most commonly associated with the name is un-disambiguated. Thus, according to Wikipedia rules, The Pandorica Opens would be the episode, Martha would be a redirect for Martha Jones, Rose would mean Rose Tyler and so on.

For us, the important point of distinction is in-universe/out-of-universe — not most commonly used/least commonly used. To re-iterate, in-universe terms generally aren't disambiguated (unless there's more than one of that thing in the DWU) and story titles always get disambiguated.

Finer detail

  1. Characters are named according to the story (or episode) they first appeared in, even if they appear in subsequent stories for which they are arguably more famous. Common English names and titles are retained for use as a disambiguation page, or a page which lists other pages that share that name. Take, for instance, the common name Charlie. Charlie is a disambiguation pages, while other people named Charlie can be found on pages like Charlie (The Gunfighters), Charlie (The Mind of Evil) and Charlie (Night of the Humans). Note that characters like Nancy (The Empty Child) are named by the first episode in which they appear. Note, too, that titles can be disambiguation pages, too. Nurse is a disambiguation page about all people with that title, whereas Nurse (Let's Kill Hitler) and Nurse (Out of Time) are individual nurses.
  2. Things encountered in universe usually don't have to be disambiguated. For instance Castrovalva is unmistakably the city, as the real world painting has never been mentioned in the DWU to date. However, when things do require disambiguation some standard terms are given at T:DAB TERM. The general rule of thumb is to make the name a single, simple word, such as (planet), (moon) or the like.
  • Making the links to the articles point to the correctly disambiguated title, so for example checking the 'what links here' for Charlie to make sure any links are pointing to the correctly disambiguated article name.
  • Ensuring that a reader who searches for a topic using a particular term can get to the information on that topic quickly and easily, whichever the possible topics might be. For example Charlie is a disambiguation page, a non-article page which lists the various uses of "Charlie" and links to the disambiguated articles.

As discussed below however, some articles do not need to primarily be disambiguation pages, and the term itself/article itself may require being disambiguated away from the primary topic title.

Primary topics

Although a term may potentially refer to more than one topic, it sometimes is the case that one of these topics is far more likely to be the one a reader is searching for when searching in the Search box. If there is such a topic, then it is known as the primary topic for that term. If a primary topic exists, that article should be titled with no disambiguation, however, with a note at the top of the article directing to a disambiguation page (or, if there is only one conflicting page, a {{you may}} widget).

An example is regeneration. As a primary topic article, a {{dab page}} note appears at the top which directs to the disambiguation article: regeneration (disambiguation).

"Major" real-world individuals (a category including, but not limited to, showrunners and actors who have portrayed the Doctor) are usually deemed primary topics as well. Hence, if they have an in-universe counterpart, you'll run into one of the vanishingly rare cases where the real-world topic should take precedence.

For example, we're hardly going to confuse casual readers by having the page William Hartnell be about a fictional actor from the 2060s, rather than the real individual who played the First Doctor.

Disambiguation rules

There are some disambiguation rules to follow on this wiki.

  • Story titles are always disambiguated, according to T:DAB TERM.
  • You need 3 similarly-named things to start a disambiguation page, particularly one that is itself un-disambiguated. A disambig page that is itself un-disambiguated simply invites people to link to it. For instance, if the page 'City of the Daleks existed, then people would most likely link to it when they were trying to link to the modern City of the Daleks (video game), because many people are unaware of the 1960s City of the Daleks (comic story). Deleting the page at City of Daleks is actually helpful, because it forces users to pick one of the two valid links. We want disambiguation pages to help us create more correct links — not be lightning rods for bad ones. Un-disambiguated disambig pages tend to have long WhatLinksHere lists, so they really shouldn't be created before they are truly necessary. Thus, disambig pages consisting of just two items are actually considered, on balance, unhelpful.

Disambiguation page formatting

The disambiguation page should start with a sentence such as;

Article title may refer to...

It should also include the {{disambig}} tag on the page; this also adds the disambiguation category to the page.

See also