If you like just a little distraction when you start up your browser, if you find Twitter and news sites too in-your-face, but a blank page too mundane, try Wikipedia. Yeah that's right, we just linked to Wikipedia, like it's some obscure site we found. Because if you only end up there through Google results, you might have never noticed their elegant, calming home page.
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At SXSW last week, YouTube's CEO, Susan Wojcicki, told attendees that YouTube will be using information from Wikipedia to complement videos relating to events. In that way, viewers will be able to determine the veracity of the video and to see alternate points of view for controversial subjects. Given the ease with which misinformation spreads, giving people divergent points of view so they can evaluate events seems like a good idea.
I watched Westworld months after it aired, and I felt lonely; no one still wanted to talk about it. Half the fun of a good work of entertainment - a TV show, a movie, a book, even a podcast or video game - is talking about it, studying it, learning more about it. Any good work of art benefits from study, and a bad work of art benefits from laughing at it with someone.
Ten years ago, we played around with Six Degrees of Wikipedia, a cute web page that would find the link path between any two Wikipedia pages. Now there's a new visual version, by a different developer, with an updated database. The new Six Degrees of Wikipedia visualises all the shortest paths between any two entries as a network map.
Wikipedia is great at laying out the cold, hard facts about things, but it often reads as if a computer wrote it. It can be hard to get the "vibe" of a subject. Instead, try TV Tropes. While this specialised wiki mostly focuses on entertainment like movies and TV shows and video games, it also collects "useful notes" about real-world people, places and phenomena.
Say you're looking up the Möbius strip on Wikipedia and you wonder how it's pronounced. Wikipedia only shows some elaborate pronunciation guide written in the International Phonetic Alphabet. You could start googling it in another tab, but there's an easy way to translate that pronunciation guide into plain English. Just hover over the letters.
Dear Lifehacker, Wikipedia frequently runs annual funding drives, which makes me wonder: are Wikipedia donations tax deductible within Australia? And should I be donating to the main site or the Australian chapter?
Wikipedia is frequently considered an unacceptable and unreliable source of information. It's been criticised as "a mish-mash of truth, half truth, and some falsehoods". The same sentiment is expressed in many course documents at universities and schools. Here's a compelling argument why you might want to embrace wiki-style sites and leave your prejudice at the door.
Ambient sounds are great for helping you focus and increasing your productivity. Listen to Wikipedia plays a symphony of ambient bells, strings and deep resonant notes that all represent Wikipedia edits happening in real time.
Despite its massive size, it is possible to run your own offline version of Wikipedia (or just read certain articles offline in a convenient form). A popular option for the sole user is Kiwix, however, if you want to run a server for multi-user access or want a cross-platform option, Gozim is worth a look.
Wikipedia has quietly been working on a variety of features behind the scenes as part of its beta program. If you're feeling adventurous, here's how you can make researching on Wikipedia even better.
Popular services like Twitter, Dropbox, YouTube and Wikipedia generally have their own apps on various mobile and desktop platforms -- but sometimes third-party developers swoop in and make better alternatives. Here are some prime examples of where the unofficial software works better than the "authorised version".