Latest game for bored students? Wikiracing

Wikipedia is now the source for more than just sourceless term papers for college students.

Wikiracing, a new game played using the online encyclopedia, is an increasingly popular distraction during late nights in the library or long days spent in classrooms for many young people.

In Wikiracing, competitors try to get from a predetermined starting page on the website to a predetermined destination as quickly as possible.

It sounds simple - and some Wikiraces are. After all, it doesn't take much imagination to find your way from Britney Spears' page to Beyonce's.

But to go from "Britney Spears" to "genius" might take a little time (Hint: Spears once guest-starred on "How I Met Your Mother," the same show with actor Neil Patrick Harris of "Doogie Howser, M.D." fame).

Wikiraces can be measured in two ways: time spent racing and total clicks used to reach the destination.

When racing by time, the first person to reach the destination page is declared the winner. When racing by clicks, the object is to use the fewest total clicks to reach the destination page, a Wikipedia version of six degrees of separation.

In this version, using the "back" button on your browser after finding yourself at a dead-end counts as using a click.

Of course, the rules of Wikiracing are made to be broken. Finding your own way to compete or tweaking the rules to make races harder or easier means Wikiracing is something anyone with a computer can do.

Strategies in Wikiracing often revolve around trying to reach a large page with hundreds of useful links on it, then narrowing down the search from there.

For example, reaching the "United States" page opens a gateway to millions of possibilities that are just a well-placed click or two away.

But cornering yourself on the page of Wout Zijlstra, a Dutchman best known for finishing third in the 1998 World's Strongest Man competition, isn't likely to help.

Getting lost in the Wikipedia woods isn't always a bad thing for those looking to burn a little free time.

In Wikiracing, having fun on the journey can be just as important as reaching the destination.

"It's just something else to do," said University of Minnesota student Jessica Sun.

"People my age spend a lot of time online with friends."


WIKIRACING BASICS

You can race by time or by the number of clicks it takes to arrive at your destination. (Using the "back" button counts as a click.)

Before you begin:

• Agree on start and destination pages (if you can't decide, click "random article" on the left sidebar until you find one you like).

• Pages based on years are usually considered off-limits, but clarify whether pages that redirect and country pages are fair game.

• Decide what constitutes fair use of your browser's "find" tool.

EXAMPLE

Jesus Christ to Jared Fogle (the Subway guy): Jesus to Christianity to United States to fast food to Subway to Jared Fogle

Now you try:

Skyway to "My Way" (the Frank Sinatra song)

For more information, go to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/wikiracing


 

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