s Thoughts from the Physics Chick: Wiki-news

Thursday, April 02, 2009


This Saturday, at around 10 am, a new Wikipedia article will be created.

Actually, that's not much of a stretch to say, since there are new Wikipedia articles being created all the time. However, I'm referring to one specific article and I can predict a lot of things about it, such as some of the categories it will belong to and the type of info boxes it will contain. The one thing I can't tell you is the name of the article. (And no, I'm not going to create it myself, although I probably refresh my browser a lot to watch it grow, once I figure out where it is.)

With the death of Joseph B. Wirthlin last December, there is a vacancy in the LDS Quorum of Twelve. (Don't laugh, BSG fans, we had the name first.) The death of an apostle means that a new apostle will be called at the next General Conference. That's this weekend, and the first session starts at 10 am, Mountain Daylight Time.

To be fair, it's not necessarily true to say that Elder Whoever-It-Turns-Out-To-Be will get a brand new Wikipedia article about him. After all, Elder Christofferson had his own article when he was still in the Presidency of the Seventy, and it's possible that the next apostle is someone who is already notable enough to have a stub or even a long article about him. I'm hoping not, though, because I think it's fun to watch a large group of people suddenly cooperate to set it all up, the way they did when Quentin L. Cook was called in October 2007.

Of the ~150 edits that have been made to Elder Cook's article in the last 18 months, 66 were made on the day it was created. Of those, 30 were made in the first hour. Within less than five hours, the article was half as long as it currently is. Any way you slice it, it's a phenomenal initial rate of growth.

Of course, sudden fame is not particularly rare in our culture (just ask Octomom) and the sudden creation of Wikipedia articles is just the latest product of a mass media culture.

However, you can't really predict this type of tabloid-esque fame. And while there are predictable events that are also highly transformative (presidential elections, American Idol finals), there are generally preliminary events leading up to these major events which tell you who are the major candidates for the transformation. (I.e., Barack Obama's Wikipedia page didn't come into existence on November 4, 2008, but was predated by his page as the Democratic presidential nominee, before that as the Democratic candidate, before that as the junior senator from Illinois, etc.)

I'm sorry to say I don't know enough about other religions to say if there are good parallels for this type of thing in other faiths. One event that comes to mind is the election of a new pope, which is certainly more exciting than the sustaining of a new prophet (in terms of not knowing who it's going to be), but I think it's usually a cardinal who's elected, and I'd be surprised if the current cardinals don't all have Wikipedia pages already.


At April 02, 2009 11:04 PM, Blogger Th. said...


I had forgotten that we have an opening. As has been my want of late, I'm predicting he will be Japanese. (I have my reasons.)

At April 04, 2009 9:01 PM, Blogger Katya said...

Hmm. Not Japanese and not a completely new page, either. I guess we both lose. (And isn't it "wont"?)

At April 05, 2009 7:14 PM, Blogger Ginsberg said...

Yeah, I'm always crossing my fingers for a Latin American (or at least a foreigner of some sort), but turns out God wanted another white guy. Am I out of line for wondering what gives?

At April 06, 2009 12:28 PM, Blogger Th. said...


Katya: yes.

Ginsberg: Latin American is the most obvious choice. I'm just waiting for a Japanese apostle because of a prophecy.


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