The idea of Wikipedia does not necessarily produce Zen-like feelings. A good resource for quick research, or a place to catch up on missed story arcs, perhaps, but tranquility is not the first thing that pops into your head. Especially in a world where Wikipedia entry defacement and manipulation is a very real thing. However, thanks to the efforts of the “Listen to Wikipedia” project, you can get closer to Zen whenever someone edits a particular entry.
Simply enough, the project, which was created by Stephen LaPorte and Mahmoud Hashemi, plays soothing, ambient-style music whenever a Wikipedia pages is edited. The about page describes the process, which also uses a visual representation:
Bells are additions, strings are subtractions. There’s something reassuring about knowing that every user makes a noise, every edit has a voice in the roar. (Green circles are anonymous edits and purple circles are bots. White circles are brought to you by Registered Users Like You.)
Apart from being a hopefully-pleasant audiation, Listen to Wikipedia (L2W) also addresses a couple other inquiries we’ve gotten more than a few times:
Whereas RCMap only displays anonymous edits, L2W presents all edits to the main namespace in real time, with special handling for new-user signups for good measure. L2W uses color a bit differently, too. By making edits from unregistered/anonymous users green, and edits from user-driven bots purple, we hoped to give a relative visual sense of traffic from those sources. (Spoiler alert: anon/bot edits represent less than a fifth of total edit traffic. L2W is a lot more active than RCMap.) Finally, because it used a world’s worth of border data, RCMap was a fairly heavy application. L2W’s more abstract approach to visualization should provide a lighter touch suitable for resource-constrained environments.
The page keeps a list of the edits that generated corresponding sound, and according to the counter, Wikipedia is currently averaging about 80-85 edits a minute, giving “Listen to Wikipedia” plenty of bells and strings to continuously broadcast. The result is, indeed, very soothing and relaxing; again, qualities that may not be readily applicable to the world of Wikipedia.
I’ve been listening to it while creating this post, and the ambient bells and strings are never intrusive or distracting. In fact, it brings a sense of calmness to the sometimes-contentious world of Wikipedia editing.