The list below is 50 consecutive random links to Wikipedia articles using the Random Article link that’s in all articles. As suggested in a recent study by Kittur, Chi & Suh (discussed below) I’ve divided these random articles into the top level Wikipedia categories. More interesting than these categories are other broad subjects (as picked out by me) in the articles below: Sports (7 articles), Pop Music (6), Europe (5), Politics (4), India (3). These subjects, I think, give a good flavor of the sorts of articles in Wikipedia.

Beyond the categories and sub-cats though — The most striking thing about this random sample of Wikipedia articles is the narrow, limited nature of the articles — Almost all of them are about things that No One Has Heard Of! — A great example of the Long Tail effect. Only in this case, it seems to be almost all Tail, and very little Head. Obviously, there are thousands of Wikipedia articles on well-known subjects, which we read every day. But in terms of numbers, the articles on minor, unheard-of subjects vastly outnumber the popular ones.

[There's more commentary below following the list]

Culture

People

  • Brigadier General Anthony Stack
    Currently a Brigadier General in service of the Canadian Forces, 1 screen
  • Roy Orchard Woodruff
    Politician, soldier, printer and dentist from Michigan (1876 – 1953), 1 screen
  • Ed Bryant
    Former Republican member of the US House of Representatives from Tennessee, 1948- , 3 screens
  • Missy Higgins
    Australian singer-songwriter, 1983 – , 7 screens
  • Răzvan Sabău
    Romanian tennis player, 1977- , 1 screen
  • Mirza Rizvanović
    Bosnian football defender, 1 screen, Stub
  • Steve Byrne
    American stand-up comedian, 1974- , 1 screen, Stub
  • Joan Hambidge
    Afrikaans poet, literary theorist and academic, 1956- , 2 screens
  • Agim Kaba
    American-Albanian actor, writer, director, sound editor, dancer, and film producer, 1980- , 1 screen
  • Verda Welcome
    African-American teacher, civil rights leader, and Maryland state senator, 1907 – 1990, 2 screens
  • Harolyn Blackwell
    African-American lyric coloratura soprano, 1955- , 7 screens
  • Ron Sobieszczyk
    Retired American professional basketball player, 1 screen
  • John Cumberland
    Former Major League Baseball player and coach, 1947- , 1 screen, Stub

Geography

  • Cwmcarn Forest Drive
    Tourist attraction and scenic route in Cwmcarn, Crosskeys, Wales, 1 screen, Stub
  • Vila Chã
    Portuguese parish with 2,957 inhabitants and a total area of 5.49 km², 1 screen, Stub
  • Chojnowo
    Village in Krosno Odrzańskie County, Lubusz Voivodeship, western Poland, 1 screen, Stub
  • Interstate 17
    5 screens
  • Withee (Town) Wisconsin
    Town in Clark County in the US state of Wisconsin, with population of 885 at the 2000 census, 1 screen
  • Edson, Wisconsin
    Town in Chippewa County in the US state of Wisconsin, with population of 966 at the 2000 census, 1 screen

Society

History

Science

  • Swannia
    Genus of moth in the family Geometridae, 1 screen, Stub
  • Proflazepam
    Drug which is a benzodiazepine derivative, 1 screen, Stub

Technology

Math

Disambiguation


I’m assuming that the Random Article link used to derive these links is truly random, that it does give a good sample of all Wikipedia articles. Surprisingly, I have not been able to find a Wikipedia article on “Wikipedia Random Article,” or any other commentary on it that might give an idea about this. I also have found no indication that anyone else has attempted to make a list of random Wikipedia articles, as presented here. Please let me know in a Comment if I’m missing something!

The purpose of the Kittur, Chi & Suh paper (PDF) mentioned above was to map all Wikipedia articles to one of the top level Wikipedia categories. The articles in the list above fit their results fairly well for most of the categories. Here are their results and mine (in parentheses):

Culture: 30% (28%)
People: 15% (26%)
Geography: 14% (12%)
Society: 12% (8%)
History: 11% (10%)
Science: 9% (4%)
Technology: 4% (6%)
Religion: 2% (0%)
Health: 2% (0%)
Math: 1% (2%)
Philosophy: 1% (0%)

The assigning of categories by me is imprecise at best, so it’s not surprising that there’s not complete agreement between my findings and those of KCS. It’s also possible that the real division of categories has changed since KCS collected data for their study, in Jan, 2008. Finally, one more bit on KCS – Their paper has the same base title as this article (What’s in Wikipedia?) — I actually thought of this title before I found their paper — In fact I found their paper because I searched for the title after I thought of it for this article! So I don’t feel like I’m stealing their title ;-)

Acknowledgement to my son David: The writing of this article is a long tale in itself! It arose from a (rather hair-brained, I now see) question I pondered — whether there’s a way to generate a “random Web page” from anywhere (The answer, I think is No, but that’s a separate discussion). As I discussed this idea with David, he mentioned the Random Article link on Wikipedia articles. I had actually never noticed this before, and found it quite interesting, which led to this article. Also David confirmed from his younger perspective that the links in the sample above are indeed obscure!

Note: These random links were generated over three separate days in the last week.

Eric Rumsey is on Twitter @ericrumsey

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