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Home » The Joy of Learning Random Things on Wikipedia: Annie Rauwerda (Transcript)

The Joy of Learning Random Things on Wikipedia: Annie Rauwerda (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of Annie Rauwerda’s talk titled “The Joy of Learning Random Things on Wikipedia” at TED conference.

In her talk “The Joy of Learning Random Things on Wikipedia,” Annie Rauwerda shares her passion for trivia and the joy of learning, which she often satisfies through Wikipedia. She highlights the fun and educational aspects of trivia, emphasizing how it can lead to deeper interest in various subjects without any pressure.

Rauwerda discusses the unique community behind Wikipedia, where anyone can contribute and add a bit of personality to the vast online encyclopedia. She reflects on the importance of Wikipedia as an accessible source of information, despite its imperfections, and its role in educating people during significant events. Finally, she conveys the message that even seemingly trivial knowledge can be powerful and invites curiosity about the world.

Listen to the audio version here:


Early Fascination with Trivia

When I was younger, I used to be really into Trivial Pursuit, and sometimes I would memorize the backs of the cards so I could win. And that’s how I learned some of my favorite trivia. Like, there’s a name for those three asterisks in a book when the vibe changes. It’s called a dinkus.

And I also learned that Oklahoma has a state vegetable, and it’s a watermelon. I’ve always really liked trivia, precisely because it’s information that carries no responsibility at all. If you forget the information that’s going to be on your test or your mom’s birthday, you might have consequences. But you never have a test on state vegetables; it’s learning that’s just for fun.

I’ve always been pretty curious. I graduated in 2022, and my favorite parts of my neuroscience classes were not necessarily the nitty-gritty physiology. I really liked the funnier stuff, like the protein in limb development named after Sonic the hedgehog. Or this bridged bicyclic molecule that looks like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.

The Love for Wikipedia

Not all of my coursework was so charming, but I tried to convince myself that everything was at least a little bit interesting. One of the best ways to make things more interesting is to learn more than you have to. My favorite place for a long time, to quench my curiosity, is Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit. I’ve been a longtime fan.

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