Posted by: maroonmaurader | May 25, 2011

Fun with Wikipedia

The latest xkcd chose wikipedia as the subject of it’s humor. The alt-text says “Wikipedia trivia: if you take any article, click on the first link in the article text not in parentheses or italics, and then repeat, you will eventually end up at “Philosophy”. Which happens to be generally true; when I heard of this I spent a couple entertaining minutes tracing paths using the Random-Page option.

xkcd isn’t the first to make this connection. It also, as you’d expect, isn’t totally true; there are some other loops, a few pages that lead to red links, and wikipedia still has a few walled gardens despite their best efforts. But widespread recognition of that pattern had some entertaining consequences.

First is the edit wars it sparked. For example, the Property (philosophy) page has been the subject of dispute over whether it should open with “In [[modern philosophy]], [[mathematics]], and [[logic]]” or with “In [[mathematics]], [[logic]] and [[modern philosophy]]” (with the former choice leading ultimately to Philosophy, and the latter ultimately ending in the loop Mathematics -> Quantity -> Property (philosophy)). And this has been going on for a month.

The second was a bit of creative relinking by some enterprising soul at yesterday. Philosophy at that time led to Reason, which (at that time) led to Mind, leading to Panpsychism, which for a whole 8 minutes had an interesting successor before the edit was reverted.

Also – on a tangentially related topic which has a similar point to the main subject of today’s comic… this is a pretty entertaining website.



  1. What is that linked site?


  2. I linked to Philosophy after 16 nodes starting with Duntocher. It was interesting to watch topics gradually become broader and less detailed in successive links, which suggests Philosophy, as the limit as #nodes->infinity, encompasses everything but consists of nothing (an apt description).

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