Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Somebody translated fussy Wikipedia edits into soothing ambient music

Illustration for article titled Somebody translated fussy Wikipedia edits into soothing ambient music
Photo: Peter Macdiarmid (Getty Images)

According to Wikipedia’s (current) page on Wikipedia:Statistics, there are 1.8 edits made per second by its worldwide volunteer editors. There’s close to 6 million articles on the English Wikipedia alone, and the free web resource sees an average of 577 new articles appear per day. That’s insanity, but it’s also the reason why we can reasonably run a 5,664,405-week series on Wikipedia (should be 5,925,959 weeks now, actually): Wiki Wormhole.

Those are impressive stats that should remind us just how microscopic we are on this inspiring worldwide utility called the internet. It’s also likely the reason why Hatnote, a volunteer-run design studio organized around the social and academic use of Wikipedia, is using Wikipedia stats and data to translate into terms we can better digest and comprehend. Hatnote has a few projects based on Wikipedia, including a daily list of the top 100 articles visited on English site, and Weeklypedia, which displays the most edited Wikipedia articles from the last week. But, by a long shot, its most interesting project is Listen To Wikipedia, in which every edit made per second on Wikipedia is translated into a chime, ding, or pleasant twang that orchestrates a symphony of music translated from data.

A visit to Listen To Wikipedia will immediately begin with a plethora of bells and strings that underscore rippling circles representing the edits. According to the website, the sound of bells indicate additions to recent Wikipedia articles, while strings indicate subtractions. Pitch changes signify the size of an edit: the deeper the note, the more sizable the edit. The colors of each circle also relay information, as green circles are edits from unregistered Wikipedia contributors, while purple circles are made by automated bots. Clicking on an entry will automatically open the page’s edit history. You can also choose to hide certain announcements—including new user sign-ups, article titles, and recent page changes—or do away with all the graphics to enhance your passive listening experience.


Last night, in the first 30 seconds of staring at Listen To Wikipedia, we saw edits for Air Force (shoe), neoliberalism, Aphex Twin, Howard the Duck, error bar, George Hamtilon (Irish politician), and a list of Awards and Nominations received by Ariana Grande. The music was sporadic, yet meditative, showing how varied Wikipedia edits visually appear in real-time alongside some calming sounds. It’s lovely, but would it kill them to add some 808s?

Kevin Cortez writes on the internet. He wrote this. Follow his dumb tweets @kevvincortez.

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