214: The Problem with Wikipedia

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The Problem with Wikipedia
'Taft in a wet t-shirt contest' is the key image here.
Title text: 'Taft in a wet t-shirt contest' is the key image here.

[edit] Explanation

This comic illustrates the "problems" of information explosion coupled with a dense web of hypertext links. Through most of human history, written media has been both slow and linear. Hypertext allows a new type of information consumption, through small chunks of information linked together in a web of related concepts, and by being digital, each new chunk can be retrieved quickly and effortlessly. Wikipedia applies this principle very strongly, and because it covers so many topics, it is common for a reader to skim an article about a topic they need or want to know about, and end up following a series of links out of curiosity. Since each new page also has several links, the overall navigation pattern resembles a tree that branches out, "exploding" in size with each new level of link-clicking, thus resulting in many wasted hours (over three in this case) of reading stuff unrelated to the original goal, and lots of open browser tabs holding a wide variety of articles, which are seemingly unrelated, but have common "ancestors". (The problem, for Randall, of wasting time on Wikipedia was later referenced in the title text of 1501: Mysteries).

One can also see this effect occur in other Media Wiki powered wikis such as this very website, where one comic can lead to another of similar relation or category. In the table below a possible route for each entry has been found.

Finding routes between the start and end points of the two pages above and the six below makes good challenges in the Wikipedia game.

The title text refers to two of the articles that were supposedly reached at the bottom. William Howard Taft was the 27th President of the U.S., in office from 1909 to 1913, who was notorious for being so overweight that he became stuck in the White House bathtub. A wet T-shirt contest is an exhibitionistic competition typically featuring young women contestants at a nightclub, bar, or resort. Clearly the combination of these two would be rather bizarre.

There is an online game that involves trying to geet from one Wikipedia page to another in the shortest possible route http://thewikigame.com/

[edit] Table

Due to the ever changing nature of Wikipedia, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge entry on Wikipedia no longer links to Structural collapse, requiring an intermediate step via Tacoma Narrows Bridge (1940), and since Structural collapse now redirects to Structural integrity and failure, most pages on Wikipedia that linked to Structural collapse have been changed to rename this link.

  • The table below will list one valid route for each destination article, though it is not necessarily the most efficient route. Note that these routes may become invalid as articles are edited.
    • They have all been updated on 03-21-2015 with possible routes.
      • Note that all links can be found directly on the page by searching with find. This was not the case in the original version of the paths, where some links was in hidden parts of the page. Thus some of these new paths are longer on this acount.
Target Wikipath
William Howard Taft Tacoma Narrows Bridge > Suspension bridge > George Washington Bridge > Washington Heights, Manhattan > George Washington > President of the United States > William Howard Taft
24-hour analog dial Tacoma Narrows Bridge > Suspension bridge > Steel rope (now redirecting to Wire rope) > Steel > Watch > 24-hour analog dial
Lesbianism in erotica Tacoma Narrows Bridge > Suspension bridge > Fausto Veranzio > Zagreb > Animation > Anime > Hentai > Cartoon pornography > Pornography > Lesbianism in erotica
Fatal hilarity via Batman Tacoma Narrows Bridge > Suspension Bridge > New York City > Washington Irving > Batman > Batman (1989 film) (this extra link now needed to go to the final page) > Fatal hilarity (this page now redirects to Death from laughter. On the previous page the link to that page is called laugh to death)
Taylor Hanson Tacoma Narrows Bridge > Tacoma Narrows Bridge (1940) (this extra link now needed to go to the next page) > Structural collapse (this page now redirects to Structural integrity and failure and is also called this on the previous page) > Burj Khalifa > Chicago > Baseball > Baseball rules > Hit by pitch > Homer Simpson > Namesake > Taylor Hanson
Wet T-Shirt Contest via T-Shirt and Cotton Tacoma Narrows Bridge > Tacoma Narrows Bridge (1940) (this extra link now needed to go to the next page) > Structural collapse (this page now redirects to Structural integrity and failure and is also called this on the previous page) > Maharashtra > Cotton > T-Shirt > Wet T-Shirt Contest

[edit] Transcript

[Heading above the chart:]
The Problem with Wikipedia:
[Text in a frame below the heading:]
Tacoma Narrows Bridge
[Lines lead down both left and right to two new frames with the following text]
Suspension bridge
Structural collapse
[Two more lines lead down from the left frame and one from the right frame, and each line ends on a wiggling line. Below this line in square brackets are the following text:]
Three hours of
fascinated clicking later
[Below this there is a similar wiggling line, from where six lines leads to new frames. From the fourth frame there follows yet another line to yet another frame. And from the last frame the same happens twice. Below text in frames from left to right, with extra text below indicated by indentation of the text:]
William Howard Taft
24-hour analog dial
Lesbianism in erotica
Batman
Fatal hilarity
Taylor Hanson
Cotton
T-Shirt
Wet T-shirt contest


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Discussion

I was unable to find the fatal hilarity link from the Batman page. I call shenanigans. Davidy22(talk) 23:16, 1 November 2012 (UTC)

Could that be a reference to the Joker? --B. P. (talk) 19:35, 3 November 2012 (UTC)

This always happens to me on Wikipedia! Glad to know I'm not alone :) 141.101.98.240 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

If I had a dollar for every wiki article I read that had nothing to do with the initial reason I opened Wikipedia, I'm guessing I could buy myself that motorcycle I've always wanted. Also, it's been a long time since I last read any Asimov, but didn't he describe, in the Foundation series if I remember correctly, something very similar to Wikipedia? I wonder if that was any inspiration to the creators of Wikipedia. Militon (talk) 09:22, 19 February 2014 (UTC)

This happens to me on explainxkcd. This should be added to explanation, which will make it self-referential comic. 108.162.222.67 15:10, 6 July 2014 (UTC)

So I thought I would try and complete the wikipath to Lesbianism in Erotica while on a break at work... Bad move, all the 'What Links Here' pages are pornography related, and my boss just happened to appear at the wrong moment. --Pudder (talk) 12:29, 2 February 2015 (UTC)
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