Mapping The Distraction That Is Wikipedia
» 25 Apr 2008
It happens to us all. We go to Wikipedia with the intention of finding some specific information on some specific topic. Several hours later we realize that we are reading about "Sexual Abuse on Pitcairn Island":http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pitcairn_sexual_assault_trial_of_2004 or something equally unrelated to "High-Energy Particle Physics":http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Particle_physics or whatever the initial topic was. Oftentimes the articles in between are forgotten and only revealed when one transforms into the smarmy smart ass at the next game of Trivial Pursuit. Much like waking up in a bathtub full of ice, missing a kidney, this loss of time and memory raises unsettling questions about recent events.
A rather old XKCD confirmed that I am not the only person experiencing this most curious malady.
I'm tired of the contents of the "3 hours of fascinated clicking" time block being unknown. I think I am reasonably sound of mind and the connections that get me from point A to point Z on the Wiki would make some sense in context. I might be wrong, but I want to find out with evidence.
I've hacked together a simple hacktempt at graphing this solution. Basically I have an extremely simple greasemonkey script that runs on en.wikipedia.org and captures the current page and the referer. It then runs some AJAX that tells a local mongrel hackjob to update the database of connections. The local mongrel server also has an HTTPHandler (localhost:9999/show) that uses Graphviz to render a fresh hot png to be delivered to the web-browser. This handler also takes a query string with start and end to set the date range of interest.
The code is uglier than Fergie on a rainy day, but it works and I find the results to be pretty fascinating.
The code is available on "Github":http://github.com/schleyfox/wikimapper/
If it amuses you or you have any suggestions let me know.