Jan 19, 2009

Random Wikiness


When I am particularly bored with Net-surfing and cable-scanning, I occasionally visit Wikipedia and use the Random Article function. This button is located on the left sidebar of the main Wikipedia page, and clicking this link sends the visitor into unknown and often fascinating journeys into accumulated knowledge.

My first stop was on a page dedicated to Wonambi, is a genus that contains two species of very large but extinct snakes. These reptiles grew up to 20 feet long and killed their prey through constriction.

I next clicked to a page describing the group Christians for Biblical Equality. The CBE, which represents more than 80 typically evangelical denominations, argues that women should not be excluded from attaining ministry positions. The group split from the the Evangelical and Ecumenical Women's Caucus (EWCI) in 1986 after the latter body passed a resolution recognizing the lesbian minority in its membership and simultaneously affirming homosexual rights.

Wikipedia's random page algorithm next sent me to a page on Ann Fienup-Riordan, a cultural anthropologist known working with Yup'ik peoples of western Alaska. The bibliography included on the page lists seven books on the Yup'ik, and I must admit I was wholly oblivious to this ethnic group prior to reading the linked articles, but I'll bet Sarah Palin knows more than I do about the Yup'ik.

I ended my Wiki-trip with an article on Hyaluronidase, which is an enzyme that is often used in conjunction with other drugs to speed their dispersion and delivery throughout the body of a patient. Hyaluronidase is most frequently used in ophthalmic surgery, and the enzyme plays a role in mammalian conception, as it is released by sperm cell after it has reached the oocyte.

Thus ends another 25-minute journey through Wikipedia, a site with immense potential to revolutionize information access, but which is simultaneously plagued by vandalism and blatant disinformation. I both love and loathe the site: I find Wikipedia to be an excellent starting point for research, but the inherent weaknesses of many articles means that it is worthless in terms of reliability.


LTLOP said...

Mike, for more time-wasting internet goodness, have you tried stumbleupon.com? I added this to the web browser and I can spend hours 'stumblin.

historymike said...

I registered at the site a year or two ago, but I like the new layout. Thanks for the reminder, LTLOP.