‘Listen To Wikipedia’ Turns Website Into New Age Symphony

Remember the ‘infinite monkey theorem'? The one that postulated that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time would almost assuredly be able to type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare. Of course, such a theory has been debunked by statisticians over the years, noting that while the probability was there, the chances of this event ever occurring would take thousands or billions of years (and unfortunately a monkey's lifespan was somewhat shorter than that).

More evolved than monkeys

So what if someone was to tell you that Big Data updates being laid down on everyone’s favorite Internet encyclopedia could actually be transformed into an ever-changing soothing, almost hypnotic and auditory music in real-time? Seems, similar to that monkey with the typewriter, huh — highly unlikely, right?

Well not the case, because Wikipedia’s legal counsel Stephen LHashemi & LaPorteHashemi & LaPorteaPorte and the site’s top Wikipedian Mahmoud Hashemi are the brain-children behind a project that has gone and done just that.

Their project appropriately titled, ‘Listen to Wikipedia’ actually converts each and every edit added to Wikipedia page into sounds that, remarkably, synthesize perfectly like a New Age symphony, comparable to the work of instrumentalists Deuter, Andreas Vollenweider or Vangelis, with a full and rich accompaniment of bells and strings.

How does i'Mike Nichols' bubble circled'Mike Nichols' bubble circledt work?

As the feed changes and various editors update, the bells indicate additions and string plucks indicate subtractions. Pitch changes according to the size of the edit — the larger the edit, the deeper the note. Note how director/producer ‘Mike Nichols’ bubble appears, as November 20th (the date I captured this image) was the announcement of his passing.

Green circles show edits from ‘unregistered contributors’ and purple circles notes edits performed by automated bots.

You will also see announcements for new users as they join the site, punctuated by a string swell. You can welcome him or her by clicking the blue banner on the top of the page by adding a note on their talk page.

You may select to listen to the edits made in any combination of languages, and the site also includes a running feed of all recent changes. Listen to Wikipedia is open-source and collects its data in real-time from Wikimon. It’s also available as an iOS app.

There is a strange order and rhythm to the music of Listen to Wikipedia. It sounds almost intentional. Hashemi and LaPorte, of course, designed the notes to be pleasing and to make sense musically, but they the end result still come across as if scored by a composer—not generated by a series of random, unconnected edits.

Sort of like that monkey sitting in front of that typewriter, intuitively writing, “Romeo, Romeo, where art thou Romeo!”

Nov 22, 2014
by Anonymous