What came first? Or last, or in between?
January 17, 2022 3:51 PM   Subscribe

Wikitrivia by Tom J. Watson is a game you can play for free in your browser. You get cards representing historical events, and have to put them in chronological order (like the card game Chronology). The software reuses data from the Wikimedia project Wikidata (previously).

Watson notes: "There are some cards that unfortunately don't quite make sense or have bad data. These need to be removed from the game and, ideally, to have their underlying wikidata entry fixed. Please report any bad cards here."
posted by brainwane (51 comments total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
This is great fun! Thanks, brainwane!
posted by cgc373 at 3:56 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]

This is fantastic!
posted by Going To Maine at 3:58 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]

“Scarface (1932 Film)” does give away the answer a bit, though.
posted by Going To Maine at 4:06 PM on January 17 [9 favorites]

Spending time on this now would be a mistake. But, three minutes convinces me this will occupy countless future household recreational hours. Thanks!

(I wonder if there is a way to build in a notability knob. Maybe there already is one.)
posted by eotvos at 4:10 PM on January 17

Going to Maine: ok, I reported that on GitHub.

eotvos: you can file an issue to ask for it!
posted by brainwane at 4:12 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]

posted by rebent at 4:15 PM on January 17

Love this! Doesn’t seem to work well in a mobile browser, after six cards it gets wonky. Can’t wait to try in a desktop browser.
posted by jzb at 4:17 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]

I just completed a streak of 11, my best so far! I thought the Negroni cocktail was invented about 70 years before it was, I mistook a Crystal skull sculpture for some Damien Hirst thing, and I thought "The Lady of Shalott" was from like a century earlier than it was. Overall I'm feeling not very good at the nineteenth century.

BTW once you've placed a card, you can click on it to "turn it over" and get a link to its English Wikipedia entry or similar.
posted by brainwane at 4:20 PM on January 17 [4 favorites]

According to my first game Gigabyte Technology was founded in 789 CE.
posted by justkevin at 4:21 PM on January 17 [5 favorites]

That’s actually accurate. They started out as a manufacturer of wooden dentures.
posted by Atom Eyes at 4:36 PM on January 17 [16 favorites]

I got 15 on my first try and have been getting progressively worse since then.
posted by clawsoon at 4:55 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]

Well I think it's bogus to ask me to compare Sewing to Astronomy. Both have been happening since prehistory, and we don't know "exactly" when they started, even if you gave me a precise definition of what counts and doesn't count.
posted by aubilenon at 4:59 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]

I managed 12. I assume there is some evil data harvesting plan involved.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:09 PM on January 17

Apparently Homicide (method of death) was invented in -1752. Who knew!
posted by aubilenon at 5:16 PM on January 17 [6 favorites]

I assumed I'd be terrible at this, but I'm not terrible, just not very good in a way that is still fun. The hardest one I had to figure out (and got wrong) was whether Billy Joel or Jason Alexander was born first. I like the ones where I'm like, "This was clearly sometime BCE, this was definitely before Europeans came to the Americas; that is definitely 20th Century." Big gaps of years, in other words.
posted by Well I never at 5:23 PM on January 17

This is neat, but somewhat let down by the randomness of it.

At first I struggled to figure out what I was supposed to do, but once the ice was broken I managed a streak of 10.

My second run, I knew how it worked, but had no idea where the first item belonged relative to the starting one. It turned out that one was 1900 and the other was 1901.

It seems to be using the increasing number of previous items to make placing the next item more difficult. In principle that is a good approach to increasing the difficulty in an incremental way, but as it stands the player's run is very affected by the RNG's run.

One potential improvement, to make it more skill-based while maintaining the randomness, might be to start with larger gaps between times and gradually allow that to narrow. Millenia first, then centuries, then decades, then years (or something smoother than base 10). All the while the number of items in play keeps increasing, narrowing the gaps and increasing difficulty, as it does now.

On preview: Being based on unreliable data affects the fairness of it. In that case, being more obviously random and less skill-based is probably more fair to the player, in terms of manging their expectations. I wonder if that was an accident or a deliberate design decision.
posted by swr at 5:27 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]

After playing it for about an hour, I think my favorite part of this game is you cannot get better at it. Also I just pulled The Bangles and Tears for Fears, and got it wrong despite them forming in the same year. Anyways, back to trying to break my 13 streak.
posted by General Malaise at 5:31 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]

I played a few and got an error on one of the runs.

Application error: a client-side exception has occurred (see the browser console for more information).

Do you think they want copypasta of the console log in a github issue?
posted by bleary at 5:38 PM on January 17

Thanks! This is perfect for me.
posted by kingless at 5:41 PM on January 17

I was shocked to discover Michelangelo's David was created in 2020. I had no idea!
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 5:55 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]

Apparently Homicide (method of death) was invented in -1752. Who knew!

Presumably the Code of Hammurabi, i.e. the codification of homicide, not the act of murder. Anyone know if there is an earlier codification of homicide?
posted by RichardP at 6:09 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]

I was shocked to discover Michelangelo's David was created in 2020. I had no idea!

Please report that at the link above, or directly through wikidata!

One great angle on this is a lot of people (might, I hope) start fixing Wikipedia/wikidata problems, for fun (for somewhat selfish reasons)!
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:12 PM on January 17

bleary: Do you think they want copypasta of the console log in a github issue?

Yes, I do think Watson probably wants that. I saw you filed it - thanks!

I'm guessing he'd probably also like to hear about the other issues people have brought up here, including how to deal with same-year adjacency and the mistaken dates on some cards, but I have already done my bit of schlepping a couple items from here into GitHub. I hope other people will step up and do a bit of reporting.
posted by brainwane at 6:15 PM on January 17

my first pull: Pythagoras vs Paul Ryan

thanks i think i'm good on this game
posted by glonous keming at 7:08 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]

Cannot get it to work at all on an iPad. :(
posted by JustSayNoDawg at 7:11 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]

I keep reflexively thinking, "I should look this up on Wikipedia, would just take a second..."
posted by clawsoon at 7:39 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]

Fun game! I came in to comment on the occasional Movie Title (date) that pops up, also wiki seems to think Hieronymus Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights came out in 2000 for some reason.
posted by drinkyclown at 7:53 PM on January 17

I managed 14 on my first try, gonna stop there because I could probably spend all day doing this. When you don't know about one of the cards you can sometimes get by on context (e.g., it gave me some Welsh actor I'd never heard of but I could guess the rough time period by his apparent age and dress in the photo, and I had few enough cards that I wasn't forced to thread a needle), but then sometimes you're SOL (I unsuccessfully determined the relative birth orders of Virgil and Horace, who were 5 years apart).
posted by axiom at 9:06 PM on January 17

This is a lot of fun! I'm pretty awful at it but it's still fun, which is an impressive endorsement imho.
posted by contrapositive at 9:10 PM on January 17

getting to 10, phenethylamine and Trent Reznor shared a slot.
posted by clavdivs at 10:05 PM on January 17

"Occurrence of hyperinflation in early 20th century Germany."

ok I googled some of that Weimar shit today and phenethylamine a bit back for sinus cold...I suspect algorithmic 🐎 play.
posted by clavdivs at 10:10 PM on January 17

I had a card for Boris Yeltsin (description: Civil Engineer). Which is one of those "technically correct" sort of descriptions...

Fun enough game, though. 15 on my third try, then got Yeltsin, and now I'm stopping so I don't get caught up in it.
posted by miguelcervantes at 10:37 PM on January 17

My best is 18, and annoyingly only broken because my finger slipped on placing Othello.
posted by tavella at 11:00 PM on January 17

I like it, although I'm really bad at it. My knowledge and interest of history is really limited to 20th century and later.

Themes or categories would be cool.
posted by meowzilla at 11:23 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]

This game has made me realize how little I know about opera and the history of India.
posted by Foosnark at 4:09 AM on January 18 [2 favorites]

What a fun game! Can't wait till later to play some more. Thanks for the link. I'm sending link to my Sister who has all 6 of her teen grandsons at hers today. I think this will be a hit with them.
posted by james33 at 6:57 AM on January 18

Also I just pulled The Bangles and Tears for Fears, and got it wrong despite them forming in the same year.

There is a card game along the same lines called Timeline. It explicitly allows events that occurred the same year to be played in either order.

This is useful for the Arts and Entertainment set, which includes cards for the release of Blade Runner and The Thing, both opening on June 25, 1982.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:44 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]

Playing this a bit on the bus, it's a lot of fun, and basically designed for me. There are some obvious goofs. And, the number of living TV actors far exceeds my patience for such. But, I love the crowdsourced aspect of it.

My spouse and I have been working on a playable, online version of the original Ask Me Another book series for several years. We're still paused over legal rights. The family of the authors have been delightful and fully on board; it's figuring out what contracts have been signed after multiple publishing company acquisitions, without spending tens of thousands of dollars on a goofy hobby project that I expect to spend money hosting, that has been the holdup. Since the first two books go public domain in the US next year, assuming laws don't change, I'm tempted to just wait for it. (Tackling the 1938 Ask Me Again books will be the next challenge.)

But, in the meantime, we've been making our own new versions of the book. We're up to around 700 questions split among two people, which makes me appreciate just how tedious writing trivia actually is. And how neat wikitrivia is, even if it's imperfect. In case it's of interest to anybody, here are the questions so far that are written in this form. (All are restricted to information that was available in 1927, which is a bit silly, but is the rule we're currently playing by.)

Arrange the following in order: the October Revolution, the Russian Civil War, the February Revolution

Arrange the following dynasties in order: Qin, Tang, Ming.

Arrange in order of birth: Pliny the Elder, Zarathustra (Zoroaster), Plato.

Arrange in order of the date when they were introduced: Lindy Hop, Carleston, Jitterbug., Foxtrot

Arrange the following in order: First Vatican Council, The Second Council of Constantinople, First Council of Nicaea

Arrange the following in order of birth date: George Washington, Ivan the Terrible, Simón Bolívar, Louis the 14th, Otto Von Bismarck.

Arrange the following in order of birth date: T. S. Eliot, Johnathan Swift, Sir Walter Raleigh, Edgar Allan Poe

Arrange the following in order by birth year: Donatello, Botticelli, Giotto

Arrange the following in order of birth date: T. S. Eliot, Johnathan Swift, Sir Walter Raleigh, Edgar Allan Poe
posted by eotvos at 7:51 AM on January 18 [3 favorites]

Love this! It reminds me of Geoguessr, which has been a longtime favorite.
posted by TheCoug at 8:04 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]

Too much nonsense for me. Ancient Egypt ended in 395 CE? Sherry invented in 1933? I know I can report errors, but it's currently too full of them for me to enjoy. And I like the Chronology card game a lot!
posted by Jasper Fnorde at 9:15 AM on January 18 [2 favorites]

Too much nonsense for me. Ancient Egypt ended in 395 CE? Sherry invented in 1933?

With the aforementioned Timeline game, I grow a little leery of their approach to fact-checking. I posted once before on the site I was playing once with the late mefite Lemurrhea and the card was “the invention of the helicopter,” which even before it was flipped over we both figured had to be circa 1500 (Leonardo) or circa 1940 (Sikorsky), not the weird Victorian-era year they gave without explanation. And I am boggled by the card in the American History set for “Gerald Ford elected president,” an event which did not happen in consensus reality.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:35 AM on January 18

This is a nice little game that reminds me a lot of the old Web 1.0 (maybe Web 1.5?) internet much in the same way that Wordle does. On the other hand, this game is also the way that I learned that Oscar Isaac is a couple of years younger than me.
posted by mhum at 3:03 PM on January 18

So a day of playing this has left me pretty bitter-mouthed. I get about 12-15 in, and then I get a few that are just wrong or weird, and lose. I mean, Folk Music invented in 1950? Joseph of Arimathea born in 100? Yeah, I can't play this anymore, sorry.
posted by General Malaise at 4:41 PM on January 18 [1 favorite]

I like this a lot! I am actually using it as a way to browse wikipedia and I am learning things, even from the mistakes I see.

My best streak so far is 15 and sometimes it is because I miss something by a year or decade and other times I just got the era completely wrong... Darn you Nintendo being founded in 1889!!
posted by vacapinta at 3:50 AM on January 19

I did find it interesting to guess the logic behind start/end dates and descriptions - the wide, wide use of the term "politician", for instance.

Since I like "how do we define cultural moments" arguments, I am interested by the idea that folk music comes into being in 1950. Obviously "folk" have been making music since the year dot, but there's a whole lot of other questions - people in Western Europe start becoming systematically concerned with "ancient"/traditional "folk" material in what, the early 18th century? And then you get people systematically collecting old songs in the UK in the 19th century with a much more coherent "old things are passing away rather than simply remaining to be discovered" sensibility, then you get the ability to record and that changes things again. And there's sort of a folk music "movement" IIRC in left/bohemian circles before the war....and all of this is just a very weak and partial periodization of things that I know about the US, the UK and a little bit of the rest of Western Europe. But obviously there are theories of the past and old music in China, for instance, and China is so ancient a country that there were probably theories of "folk" music in, like, the Tang Dynasty.

But then, there's a self-identified "folk" movement post-war and that's where the genre comes into being, just as "science fiction" comes into being when people start understanding it as a genre with norms and a publishing path even though there are many kinds of stories about science/scientific wonders that pre-date, eg, the pulps.
posted by Frowner at 5:59 AM on January 19 [2 favorites]

But also, having just started a new game, when I think "Bayard Rustin" I think of a lot of things but "trade unionist" isn't the first.
posted by Frowner at 6:00 AM on January 19 [1 favorite]

... when I think "Bayard Rustin" I think of a lot of things but "trade unionist" isn't the first.
Isaac Newton, noted treasury consultant
Charles Gates Dawes, one-hit-wonder composer
Hirohito, devoted amateur marine biologist
Edgar Allan Poe, innovative conchologist
Abraham Lincoln, pioneering wrestler

(To be fair, the original is a lot less silly than my riff on it.)
posted by eotvos at 8:49 AM on January 19 [2 favorites]

Isaac Newton, noted treasury consultant

Pound for pound of his writings, Newton should be known as a speculative theologian and alchemist who dabbled in math and physics.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:00 AM on January 19 [2 favorites]

I got Michael B. Jordan (the actor) and his description was something along the lines of Naruto Shippuden Enthusiast
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 2:05 PM on January 19

Augh. I had a 13 streak going with a huge gap between 1209 (University of Cambridge) and 1959 (formation of Pac 12) when I got the card Epson Derby - inauguration which the data thinks occurred in 0 rather than the correct 1780 (which admittedly I didn't know but correctly guessed had to be after 1200 but before the 1950s)
posted by Mitheral at 11:06 AM on January 20

So I guessed the National Library of the Czech Republic could not possibly have existed before the Czech Republic itself - at least not under that name - and trying to be clever and guessing around 1950's. But the card says 1622. Then the actual Wikipedia article says 1777.

It all depends on when the vital plank on Theseus' ship was added I guess.
posted by vacapinta at 11:42 AM on January 20

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