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Wikis Gone Wild!

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Six years ago, Jimmy Wales introduced Wikipedia with the idea that the internet was for the free sharing of knowledge among, well, everyone. Those who knew something could contribute and edit entries for the benefit of those needing to find out. Since then, Wikipedia has become the go-to place for everyone from elementary school students to blog writers. Although the statistics are phenonemal, the real proof of success is when the knockoffs and parodies show up. Also, plenty of niche-audience sites use the Wikipedia format. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Wikipedia must feel very flattered.


Uncyclopedia, the content-free encyclopedia is sometimes refered to as Wikipedia's empty-headed stepchild. It was launched in January of 2005 as a parody of Wikipedia. Among other things, Uncyclopedia is famous for popularizing the cult of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and for featuring randomly coined "quotes" from Oscar Wilde on many of its entries.


Wookieepedia, the Star Wars wiki, was created on March 4, 2005 as a resource for all things in the Star Wars universe. It is considered to be a branch of Wikipedia, but has its own domain due to Wikipedia users' complaints about the "overabundance of minutiae" related to Star Wars on the site.


Slackerpedia Galactica, factual pages on astronomical topics, but "loaded with humor, jokes, cheesieness and the absurd." This is a fun site. The entry on Pluto is written in the first-person narrative about the planet's demotion to dwarf status, and how he (she?) is taking the news.

MFWikiality.pngWikiality, "the truthiness encyclopedia" was launched by Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert in 2006 shortly after he was banned from Wikipedia for encouraging vandalism.


Conservapedia, a "conservative encyclopedia you can trust" was founded in November, 2006 in response to an alleged liberal, anti-Christian, and anti-American bias in the articles of Wikipedia. It was created by a group of homeschool students, and has been criticized as innacurate and hypocritical.


Vidipedia, the free video encyclopedia that anyone can edit. Upload or look up videos in many knowledge-based categories. You can also download or embed videos from Vidipedia.


Monstropedia, the original open-source bestiary, is the "ultimate online encyclopedia of monsters in myth, magick and legend." It has 716 articles on a range of monsters from dinosaurs to fairies.


Lostpedia is all about the TV show Lost. Read more about it here.


Sikipedia, building an online collection of sick jokes was founded by Rob Manuel, with the intention of publishing the collection in book form eventually. Warning: offensive humor.


My favorite by far is Wickerpedia, the hardwoven plant fibre encyclopedia. What's not to love about this one?

Believe it or not, I got a lot of information about these sites from Wikipedia, still the lodestar of internet information. As I was preparing this article, a song got stuck in my head. I'm sure you'll recognize the tune.

In the wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki room
In the wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki room
All the nerds add words and the emos swoon
In the wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki room

There are more Wikipedia knockoffs out there, I just know it. If you are familiar with any, please tell me about it in the comments.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]