Wikipedia:Getting to Philosophy
Clicking on the first link in the main text of a Wikipedia article, and then repeating the process for subsequent articles, would usually lead to the Philosophy article. As of February 2016, 97% of all articles in Wikipedia eventually led to the article Philosophy, including Philosophy itself (as of September 6, 2018), which recurs in the infinite loop Problem solving, Artificial intelligence, Intelligence, Logic, Truth, Fact, Reality, Object of the mind, Object (philosophy), and back to Philosophy.
The remaining articles lead to an article without any outgoing wikilinks, to pages that do not exist, or get stuck in loops. This has gone up from 94.52% in 2011. At some point in the past[when?] the median link chain length to reach philosophy was 23.
There have been some theories on this phenomenon, with the most prevalent being the tendency for Wikipedia pages to move up a "classification chain." According to this theory, the Wikipedia Manual of Style guidelines on how to write the lead section of an article recommend that the article should start by defining the topic of the article, so that the first link of each page will naturally take the reader into a broader subject, eventually ending in wide-reaching pages such as Mathematics, Science, Language, and of course, Philosophy, nicknamed the "mother of all sciences".
Following the chain consists of:
- Clicking on the first non-parenthesized, non-italicized link
- Ignoring external links, links to the current page, or red links (links to non-existent pages)
- Stopping when reaching "Philosophy", a page with no links or a page that does not exist, or when a loop occurs
The phenomenon has been known since at least May 26, 2008, when an earlier version of this page was created by user Mark J. Two days later, it was mentioned in episode 50 of the podcast Wikipedia Weekly, which may have been the first public mention of it.
As the methodology to reach Philosophy is stopped if there is a loop that occurs, any edits to pages that had made their first links go to Philosophy can quickly result in a large number of pages no longer having a path to "Philosophy". Since getting to "Philosophy" is not a goal of most editors, such occurrences will often go unnoticed. For example, by June 1, 2018, enough edits had made a loop of Mathematics, Quantity, Counting, Element (mathematics), and then back to Mathematics. As this is one of the steps that has normally been seen before with the articles getting broader, this would cut off most pages from Philosophy.
Vandalism of pages in the routes that lead to the loop can also break this phenomenon for many pages. However, such vandalism is easily and often quickly fixed.
- web page that renders links graphically in a tree (detects loops and uses the second link to always complete the process)
- wikilope is a command line utility and Node.js library that can do various queries on Wikipedia pages, including the get to "Philosophy" effect.
- getting-to-philosophy (v. 2.1.0), a Node.js library that allows to query any Wikipedia page and get the different pages names that will get to "Philosophy" (also avoids loops and use the second link)
- YouTube video demonstrating this observation, which starts with random article and eventually end up in the article Philosophy
- Analysis showing that over 95% of Wikipedia articles get to Philosophy
- The alt-text of a Cartoon at xkcd notes this phenomenon (see tooltip)
- WikiLoopr a tool designed to find loops when following the first link in articles.
- "The Only Way Is Essex + Wikipedia = philosophy". The Guardian.
- Amy Lee (2011-11-14). "All Wikipedia Ends In Philosophy, Literally". The Huffington Post.
- Wikipedia Pages That Don't Lead to Philosophy an in-progress (unfinished) database of Wikipedia page loops that result in a page not leading to philosophy.
- Six Degrees of Wikipedia, an interactive tool to find paths between articles.