November 26, 2012
Indexing the Indexers
Kurt Vonnegut revealed a hidden, but undeniable, truth in his masterpiece Cat's Cradle:
She said that indexing was a thing that only the most amateurish author undertook to do for his own book.
"It's a revealing thing, an author's index of his own work," she informed me. "It's a shameless exhibition—to the trained eye."
"She can read character from an index," said her husband.
Wikipedia is the "free, collaboratively edited, and multilingual Internet encyclopedia" that features over 23 million articles, with "over 4.1 million in the English Wikipedia alone." As you might guess, Wikipedia requires a massive amount of indexing. Here, for example, is the main index of Wikipedia. And here is the alphabetical index. And here is the index of indexes. The rabbit hole goes even deeper if you choose to keep digging.
However, Wikipedia's powerful indexes don't work as well when you view them from the opposite direction—from the articles themselves. Most articles about specific people or events relating to a single topic (e.g., baseball players and franchises, etc) have a pseudo-index near the bottom of the page showing what "categories" that entry belongs to. The problem is that, since the millions of articles are written and maintained by interested readers, these categories aren't always consistent or, for that matter, relevant (and most certainly not complete).
As Vonnegut recognized fifty years ago, Wikipedia's indexes tell us more about their indexers than they do about the indexees. Here, then, are the Wikipedia indexes for five popular current(ish) Dominican ballplayers, chosen for their similar backgrounds, achievements, and notoriety. Let's see what their entries tell us about the indexers.
Note: We already know that, by their very nature, Wikipedians are psychopaths of the Sherlock Holmes variety. This exercise is to further diagnose their psychosis.
Albert Pujols (entry)
Notes: Simple, thorough list of NL & MLB accomplishments. Obvious confusion about Pujols' roots (as a naturalized citizen, is he "American people" or "Dominican"?). Strong support of his baptist religion.
Diagnosis: Your run of the mill Wikipedian with an acute interest in religion. Two out of five Sherlocks.
Adrian Beltre (entry)
Notes: Short and simple, with only a minimum of categories not belonging to the "Texas Rangers players" variety. No naturalization or emigration concerns to muddy the index. However, the "Dominican Republic people of African descent" entry is out of the blue, as his main Wikipedia entry makes no mention of this fact. Sin by omission: no category is included for Beltre's one-knee-on-the-ground home runs.
Diagnosis: Beltre offers little room for an indexer's character to show through. Still, a little bias can be seen, indicating the indexer's troubles growing up in rural America. Also, a clear lack of fun is apparent. One-and-a-half out of five Sherlocks.
Alex Rodriguez (entry)
Notes: The most complicated name on this list. Rodriguez was born in the United States, so there is no American-vs-Dominican confusion. Included with "Hispanic or Latino American sportspeople." Major league achievements are lacking the "American League Most Valuable Player Award winners" category. Included in two "doping cases" categories despite never actually having a case brought before him. Is, surprisingly, a "collector."
Diagnosis: This indexer has serious issues with the premiere third baseman/shortstop of this era. His achievements are belittled or ignored while his sins are highlighted. The indexer admires the work of one Jim Moriarty and is currently shopping his "consulting criminal" services to Major League Baseball and its owners. Four out of five Sherlocks.
David Ortiz (entry)
Notes: Similar confusion to Pujols regarding American and Dominican citizenship. Thorough details regarding career achievements. Two mentions of "doping" and "drugs" despite no credible evidence ever brought forth against Ortiz. Sin by omission: no category for "slowest trotters in baseball."
Diagnosis: Similar indexing issues as that of Alex Rodriguez. Omitted categories show less animosity towards Ortiz, however. There is still hope for indexer yet, though it is fading. Three out of five sherlocks.
Manny Ramirez (entry)
Notes: Most detailed index yet, though that is mostly due to the large number of teams Ramirez has played for. Citizenship concerns are handled differently for Ramirez: he is a naturalized citizen like Pujols and Ortiz, but is included in the same categories as Rodriguez, a natural-born citizen. "Doping" and "drugs" are mentioned four times. Sin by omission: no category for "dreadlocked sportspeople" or "proprietors of Mannywood."
Diagnosis: Minor confusion from the indexer, but shows tendency to err on the side of caution, especially regarding citizenship and "doping" concerns. Excessive mentions of drug issues but, considering Ramirez was suspended twice, it can be understood. Incredible thoroughness of index exposes a typical Wikipedian with accelerated detail issues. Two-and-a-half out of five Sherlocks.
Having read through only five of the millions of indexes on Wikipedia, I can say this: Claire Minton must be quite pleased that ice-nine was released into her world before Wikipedia came into existence. Those indexes are exhausting.