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March 31, 2014 | by  | in Opinion Weird Internet Shit |
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Weird Internet Shit

Wikipedia is amazing. Fuck your lecturer, fuck your anecdote about an edited page – were they there when you needed to be able to talk about some old-ass TV show just to keep a conversation going? Naw. Were they there to tell you about some random Netflix recommendation? Naw. Were they there when you just kind of wanted to know how many people live in Norway? I didn’t think so.

But you know all this; why is it in a Weird Internet Shit column? Because of lists.

I gather that a few of you have heard of some of these already. If you haven’t seen “List of common misconceptions”, a page that will make you feel really stupid in the short term and really smart in the long term, go do that now. Follow it up with “List of unusual deaths”, or “List of common misquotations” if you’re a bit squeamish. Thing is, these are just the tip of the iceberg.

There is so much information on Wikipedia – these lists are just a way to organise it, to make the swaths of data somewhat manageable. Within that organisation comes perfection. Within that organisation comes the answer to every question you have ever had.

Do you know what the busiest airport in the world is? Not LAX, not Heathrow, not Hong Kong – Atlanta, according to “World’s busiest airports by passenger traffic”. We won’t even get started on who wins out in cargo tonnage.

But you probably aren’t as into airports as I am. No problem. How about “List of television series canceled after one episode”, “List of television series by location”, or “List of television series notable for negative reception”. Here you will find the story of Australia’s Naughtiest Home Videos, a show so bad that the owner of the network had it cancelled before it had finished airing, calling the station when he accidentally saw it in a hotel. Away from TV, there’s lists of songs deemed inappropriate after 9/11 (‘Walk Like an Egyptian’), lists of the 416 different Star Trek races, and of course, lists of one-hit wonders – everything.

Maybe you hate pop culture. “List of causes of death by rate” could save your life, although “List of preventable causes of death” is more precise. It gets weirder. “List of accidents and disasters by death toll”. “List of battles by casualties”. “List of genocides by death toll”. Here, human disasters are organised and played off against each other, with the same tone one uses to discuss economic data. It’s a little unsettling – but also perversely engrossing.

Wikipedia’s ruthless system of organisation means nearly every fact is quantifiable, every notable event part of a catalogued database. These new hierarchies are natural to the language of the internet, but wouldn’t make sense anywhere else. Try not to get lost.


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