Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Chain Gang

So, I have this nasty habit of using Wikipedia to do a lot of my research for Big Dave and Company. Yeah, I know, it can be edited and whatnot by anyone anytime, but for most major articles they (the Wikipedia overseers, which in Wikipedia-speak would be the Wiki-bosses I guess) have been taking steps lately to ensure that things are at least roughly factually correct. That being said, if I read something with an obvious bias, or maybe that doesn't jive with reality, you have to be able to take it with a grain of salt. Basically, you just have to use your common sense, just like everything else.
The reason that I am always so quick to pull the trigger when it comes to Wikipedia and my research is that, with over three million articles contained in the English-language version, pretty much everything that I would ever want to discuss is there - it's like one-stop shopping. So I have been doing a lot of research there, and I have actually added it to my daily reading list in the morning. On their front page, they put a lot of neat stuff. First of all, they put a featured article out of their collection up every day, which is cool. Second, they put about a dozen different articles about what is going on in the world for everyone to see, so just in case I missed something important in the online newspapers I read every morning I can sort of get word of it there. Third, they put events that have occurred in history on the current day, so that teaches me a lot about history, and that is good. Then, the last thing they do, is put like say a half dozen "did-you-knows" on the bottom of the page from recent additions. They are like one line out of the article so you can sort of see what is new. That is my favorite part.
Anyway, between all my looking at the stuff we just talked about, and all of the research that I do for Big Dave and Company because the Unpaid Interns suck and are always busy writing letters home, calling the authorities, or trying to chew their way out of their ropes to do my research for me like they should, I am on Wikipedia a lot. And what I have noticed is that there is no easier way to let time get away from you, and no better way to wind up somewhere that you never thought you would be.
Oh yeah, it is so easy to be led astray daisy-chain style on Wikipedia. Like "please set this sandwich on the floor" easy. The reason for this is the unbelievable amount of links on Wikipedia. If an article is written correctly, and most of them are, every fifth word or so will be blue, which means that it links to another article somewhere on Wikipedia. So you can start at an article about The Embarcadero in San Francisco and daisy-chain yourself all the way to an article about fruit bats, or DNA, or about a million other subjects. You can see how this would be a major time waster. It is fascinating, sort of like a perverted Information Superhighway version of the classic kids game Telephone, both of which you can look up at Wikipedia.
The sort of cool thing about this phenomenon is that you end up learning a lot, well, maybe not learning a lot but sort of having a vague familiarity with things so if you are at a cocktail party and you hear something mention UB40 you can say "Oh yeah, I've heard of them." It's neat. But do please beware, because it is also sort of addicting. That being said, I would still recommend that you try it, because it's totally fun and you will be amazed at where you end up based on where you start. That's the magic of the Internet I guess.

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