At a previous job, I spent a lot of time looking at Wikipedia pages to fill time. After a while, I realized that I returned to some pages over and over again. These pages were interesting because they elevated the medium of the Wikipedia page by becoming a piece that felt more like art than a reference page. I sat down with my friends and tried to hash out what exactly makes a Wikipedia page great, and we settled on the following criteria.
- The page must have good one liners. The page must be quotable for easy sharing and to leave you will a snippet that stays in your mind long after you’ve read the article.
- The page should have a compelling narrative. Stories are always good, and the page should draw you into one.
- The page should have interesting subsections. There is nothing better than scrolling down to the “Controversy” portion of someone’s Wikipedia page. My personal favorite is skipping directly to “Early Life” and “Early Career” since I want to see what successful people were doing at around my age.
- The page must excel at being a Wikipedia page. Interesting people and subjects are great, but I am interested in how these people fit into the format that Wikipedia has designed for us, from the table of contents to the footnotes.
That being said, here are some of my favorites.
Will Smith. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Will_Smith).
I think about Will Smith’s Wikipedia page a lot, mostly because of the “Religious Beliefs” subsection. Will Smith and his family seem to be very spiritual people (just look at the interview with Willow and Jaden Smith in which they delve into their own personal philosophies). In the “Religious Beliefs” section of the Wikipedia page, there is a whole paragraph dedicated to the fact that he has spoken favorably of Scientology (though is not a Scientologist). “”I just think a lot of the ideas in Scientology are brilliant and revolutionary and non-religious,” he says. I am a little confused how and why this made it onto Will Smith’s Wikipedia page, alongside all of his other accomplishments. I understand the controversy surrounding Scientology and by no means endorse it. I wonder why Will Smith’s opinion on the matter holds any weight in the debate, especially when this quote illustrates that the ideas in Scientology are, to him, non-religious. I guess I just think about Will Smith in many regards*, none of which include this offhand mention of Scientology.
Lord Byron. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord_Byron).
I looked up Lord Byron after watching the movie “The Trip” with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. I was blown away. Lord Byron was the biggest fuckboy ever to tread planet Earth. His Wikipedia page is expansive and divided into wild chapters of his various escapades. Byron’s Wikipedia page was particularly useful to me because the information was tangentially work-related and I felt like I wouldn’t get in trouble for studying literary history. But also I was there for all of the insane fuckery that Lord Byron got himself into. This page requires multiple visits, and the subsections read well by themselves (“Fondness For Animals”, “Education and Early Loves”, “Political Career”). The fact that all of this is plotted out in an outlines and structured manner when Byron’s life seem to be the opposite of outlined and structured makes it a great read.
Minnesota Nice. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minnesota_nice).
I visited this page after watching the Coen Brother’s “Fargo” (1996). Regional cultural differences were relevant to me at the time. I was living in Portland where people seemed to be generally friendlier than other place I had visited. I think about this page a lot, especially when I move to new towns and try to get a sense of the cultural climate. Living in Seattle is refreshing after living in Portland, since people are more inclined to be just outright nasty. I sometimes think it is directly linked to population density, that the more tightly packed people are crammed into a given space, the more of an asshole they will typically be in everyday life.
Here are some honorable mentions for some Wikpedia pages that my friends and I like that also may tickle your interests.
- Animal Sexual Behavior. (RT).
- United States v. Approximately 64,695 Pounds of Shark Fins. (EW).
- List of country-name etymologies. (SS).
- Emu War. (LE).
- Netflix and Chill. (TB).
- Boudoir. (SR).
- Luther Vandross. (KJ).
Everyone has their favorite topic, so you can imagine that this list goes on for a while. When I asked my friends what their favorite pages were, everyone had an enthusiastic response. This thrills me, because it shows me that people are curious and excited about the things they find, especially in a kind of dry format. Information, when organized neatly, can be a sublime experience.
*Most often in the context of the movie “I, Robot”.