Thanks to Wikipedia, we have never been better informed about pointless subjects. We have all spent countless hours trawling for the most obscure article we can find. But what about the other end of the scale? What are the most used, most linked to, most important articles on Wikipedia?
A new tool you to look for the most important articles using any tag on the site. We’re a television site, so let’s look up the most powerful TV wiki in the world:
Congratulations to the Simpsons, which pips Doctor Who to the top spot. There are some surprises there: who knew that Lost and Saturday Night Live were still so important? What about the most important films?
Congratulations to The Simpsons, which pips The Wizard of Oz to the top…wait, what? Sure The Simpsons had a film, but is it really more significant than The Godfather, Gone with the Wind, Schindler’s list and Doctor Who? Wait…Doctor Who?
Even the fans don’t like the Doctor Who films! What’s going on?
Well, the tool pulls information about the articles from Wikidata. By default, it then ranks them according to ‘Harmonic Centrality’. This is a fairly complex method that measures how many pages link to an article, and how many pages link to those pages and so on. It can produce some odd results. Not only do the makers admit that because Wikipedia’s tagging relies on people it’s not always correct or complete, it doesn’t tend to give you the most… useful articles on a subject.
For instance, who is the most important actor on Wikipedia?
That’s right! President Ronald Reagan! Followed by the Bard, Dylan and MJ. Not forgetting Madonna or Spielberg. All of these people may have acted at one point or another, but you wouldn’t call them primarily actors.
Similarly, the presence of Saturday Night Live and two war documentaries on the television show rankings can probably be put down to the number of people who have starred or appeared in SNL (and thus link back to that page) and the fact that the World Wars are among the most trafficked articles in all of Wikipedia.
“Wikidata is not perfect,” the website admits. Nevertheless it’s a fun toy to while away half an hour or so, and a useful reminder of the dizzying, chaotic way in which we use the internet.