Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Learning Fast With Wiki

How much can I learn in 30 minutes? I ask this because when I find myself lost in a daze of boredom, I always end up over at Wikipedia. Once you get started with the endless link that is wiki, there is no stopping. You start at “The Goonies” page and the next thing you know you are researching Booby Traps. Booby Traps inevitably leads you to practical jokes, which in turn derails you to “The Massacre of the Innocents”. Now you went from reminiscing about Data and Chunk to learning about the episode of infanticide from the Gospel of Matthew. This happens all the time.
The way I look at it, there is two ways to attack the world of wiki. The aforementioned method is the one I use the most. I begin at a specified page and let the magic happen from there. You end up losing track of time and the next thing you know its 2:45 am and you’re discovering the origins of the 1st Delaware Regiment. The second method is the random page passage. A chaotic, unstructured adventure guided by the unknown forces within wiki. Which is better? It is a matter of mood, taste, opinion, etc. My question is how much can I learn in 30 minutes with Wiki driving. Will it be useful, important information or just complete junk food? I will judge each page on a 1-5 scale. 5 being immensely entertaining or useful and 1 being a waste of time. Let’s begin.

The time is currently 11:38pm:

Page 1: Cecil Charles Windsor Aldin
-Alright lets see what we got. Well first of all, you have to love that name. As Tobias would say, “That sure is a mouthful”. Cecil was a British artist that specialized in two things: Animals and rural life. Not too much more to see here.
----Rating: 1, although I am a big fan of that name.

Page 2: Mattoon, Illinois
If you find yourself in Coles County, Illinois… make sure you hit up Mattoon. No kidding… they mention Will Leitch, Deadspin's editor, on this puppy. Apparently, Will grew up in Mattoon and his novel CATCH is set there. Wiki just amazes me everyday. Mattoon saw a small oil boom in the 40’s and 50’s that led to some beneficial economic activity. The city is also the self-declared “Bagel Capital of the World” and if you head to Mattoon during those hot summer months you can take part in “Bagelfest”.
----Rating: 4, some interesting information here. However, I always question places that declare themselves anything. You just can't self-declare yourself something can you? This happens all the time with Roast Beef shops where we are from, they are all "famous". Who says so?

Page 3: Lyrestad
There are only 20 words on this page. “Lyrestad is a village of Mariestad Municipality in Sweden. In Lyrestad the main Stockholm – Gothenburg railway crosses the Gota Canal.” Can we get someone on this, I mean 20 words?
----Rating: 0, I know I said a 1-5 scale but this is just a lack of effort on someone’s part. They couldn't give us anything more? Really? I may just make something up, see if anyone will actually police the Lyrestad page. No chance anyone will...right?

Update: 13 minutes have gone by

Page 4: Patrick Fisher
Our first sports reference! Patrick Fisher was born on September 3, 1975 in Zug, Switzerland and plays for the Phoenix Coyotes. On October 5, Fisher appeared in his first NHL game against the Islanders. I just looked up his stats this year. Thus far he has notched two goals and two assists. He has a plus/minus of -1 and has spent 12 minutes in the box. I also saw that our boy Nick Boynton has a plus/minus of -8 and has spent 62 minutes in the booth this year. We miss ya Nick.
----Rating: 3, I wonder how many sport articles are on Wiki... it has to be a huge number. Think of all the players, teams, leagues, games, colleges, law suits, mechanics, literature, movies, etc.

Page 5: Chickenman (radio series)
Dick Orkin created this radio program that spoofed comic book heroes. Loosely based on Batman, the shows main character worked as a shoe salesman and fought crime at night as the “Winged Warrior”. They had 273 episodes of this. 273 episodes is roughly 40 more episodes than Friends produced and 100 more than Seinfeld.
----Rating: 2, I just can't see this working today. We are so much less patient then a half century ago. Hell, I can't even watch telvision shows in real time anymore. I will do some other activity for fifteen minutes and then watch it so I can skip the commercials. No shot I would be able to catch 273 episodes of the Chickenman, no chance.

Page 6: Coefficient
Here’s the thing. These are the pages you just skip. You see the title and click “Random Article” again. It doesn’t affect the value of the journey, it just makes you wait longer for the gem down the road
----Rating: Skipped. Often I get a chain of pages worthy of the skip and I will read almost anything. There is a lot of useless boring crap out there and you realize it pretty fast when cruising through wiki.

Page 7: Jim Lash
Lash was a wide receiver for the Vikings for 5 years. During those years his Jim and his teammates lost Super Bowl VIII, Super Bowl IX, and Super Bowl XI to the Dolphins, Steelers, and Raiders respectively.
----Rating: 3, I would have given Jim a four if the Vikings could have mustered up a win. Marv Levy's page wouldn't see a 4, so neither will Lash.

Update: 24 minutes… lets try to get a gem in here before its all said and done

Page 8:Maria Angelova
She was an Author... she died in 1999.. blah, blah, blah
----Rating: 1

Page 9: Pandoro
A very tasty, traditional Italian sweet bread. Popular around Christmas. I would spend more time but I think I can get another page in before my deadline.
-----Rating: Rushed, but I do like Pandoro and suggest everyone to give it a whirl. Speaking of whirl, we discovered that Ben and Jerry's discontinued their flavor "One Sweet Whirl" which was my favorite ice cream they made. Seriously, head over to their website and look at their graveyard. They have killed some tremendous flavors.

Page 10: The Fabulous Thunderbirds
-TFT as I now like to call them were a blues-rock band in the late 70’s and 80’s. “The first two albums (with Keith Ferguson on bass and Mike Buck on drums), did not initially sell well, but are now regarded as successful white blues recordings.” I think that is a compliment, but I am not sure. They did break “into the mainstream” in 1986 when their appeared behind Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas in “Tough Guys”. The found more success on the silver screen the following year in “Hot Pursuit” starring John Cusack. They produced 12 albums with “Butt Rockin’” being my favorite title.
----Rating: 3, some good info, but I was hoping for something better to end with. Maybe something like this or this or even this

Times up and I did not receive that diamond in the rough that I was looking for, but I won't let that get me down. I will just sit up and continue to hit that “random article” button until I am satisfied. So what did I learn this past half hour? I learned where Will from Deadspin grew up and that he wrote a book that was set there as well, that Nick Boynton is spending more time in the box than on the ice, and that I could care less about coefficients. However, for the most part I was only concerned with finding that one page that made it all worth while. And that is why Wikipedia consumes so much of my time. I guess it reminds me of playing golf. You can spend 4 hours hacking around, playing like absolute garbage. You can swear to your buddies that you’re done; you’re putting the clubs away and spending your money and time elsewhere. However, all it takes is that one shot. That one shot that brings you back. Same principle applies in the world of Wiki. I can waste my time for hours, but then you get that one that draws you right back in.
----Final Rating: It may have been a bunch of pointless information, but 30 minutes never went by so quick and that is enough for me to give it a 5.

1 comment:

Hadley said...

Awesome....I love this...Who can produce the most entertaining 30 minutes of random Wiki...it could explode Sudoku-style...