Wikipedia Essays

Two nights ago I had an idea. It was just before I fell asleep so naturally I had forgotten all about it the next morning. Last night however, just as I was about to turn off the reading light, the idea was there once again. This time I wrote it down. It went like this:

  • Pick three Wikipedia entries at random
  • (If you are really interested in something specific: take that; but you still need to randomly select two more.)
  • Read the three articles
  • Write!

That was on the top half of my notepad this morning. On the bottom half I had scribbled some further instructions and explanations to myself:

  • The post should link the three topics at the top. Like so: topic 1topic 2topic 3
  • The essays shall not describe or summarize the contents of the Wikipedia articles; rather:
  • they should be based on associations from reading the entries together;
  • they should show the connections;
  • they should model the topology of the field spanned by the three subjects

As  you can see I underline a lot when writing notes to myself. It doesn’t help. Oh, and at the bottom of the page I had scribbled: Is this possible? Which shows, I think, that I have learned to take my late night self with a pinch of salt.

In any case, I have just tried it out.  To answer my own question: I am not sure if it is generally possible to be honest.

I used Wikipedia’s Random Article page and this is what I was dealt:

Polymastia echinusAlbert Mitchell  – Audrey Juma

Stumped.

After I lamented my stochastic outcome of inspiration in a chat, a friend pointed out that they do have a relation to previous British colonies in common. New Zealand, The United States, and Pakistan. But what then? A sponge, a soccer player, and an Education specialist. Perhaps I am not up to it?

On the other hand. What if I was to adjust my method somewhat. You see, I think my late-night self was onto something: using three points as initial conditions and then mull over it for a while… Use it as a seed. Yes, I think it is interesting for several reasons. To bring together surprising subjects. To challenge myself, for sure, but also to create something new. Probably not very many web pages link to those three articles just as I did above next to each other. Uniqueness.

But then. It does have to make sense as well.

What can be done differently then? Well perhaps I should not allow stubs. Stubs don’t provide very much information, and therefore not too many opportunities to bring the subjects together. All three articles above are stubs, perhaps I should just keep the pulling the one-arm bandit of Wikipedia random until three proper articles align?

Or i could branch out from the stubs. Follow any links I might find interesting down to say a max depth of… 3? … and then start writing. That might prove more in line with the initial conditions idea. Spend some more time researching before I am allowed to complain.

Another idea is to choose just one of the articles and focus on that. Or to take, more and keep going until the body of all those random pages creates a theme.

I don’t know. Now it feels unfair to the three I linked to above not to write anything. Though I guess I did write this.

.L

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