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Want To Waste An Hour (Or Three)? Go On A Wikirace

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There's a new way to drain a good part of your day (or lecture class period) on Wikipedia: wikiracing.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that students across America are increasingly playing this game which, according to its Wikipedia page, begins with the selection of a start page and an end page on the online encyclopedia site. Ideally, the two pages are entirely unrelated. Whichever player reaches the end page first with the fewest clicks, wins. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune breaks down the rules of engagement:

Wikiraces can be measured in two ways: time spent racing and total clicks used to reach the destination. When racing by time, the first person to reach the destination page is declared the winner. When racing by clicks, the object is to use the fewest total clicks to reach the destination page, a Wikipedia version of six degrees of separation. In this version, using the "back" button on your browser after finding yourself at a dead-end counts as using a click.

Besides serving as a time-waster, the game also has some intellectual heft: after all, a user is forced to read various Wikipedia pages and possibly learn something. There's also a psychological appeal, which the Inquirer further explains:

The attraction to games like this may reflect a deeper interest in human connectivity, said S. Shyam Sundar, codirector of the Pennsylvania State University's Media Effects Research Laboratory.

"People have this inherent fascination with exploring networks," he said. "At some level it's a game, a challenge that involves some amount of skill. At the more basic level, it's how things are related to each other, how we are all connected."

Have you wikiraced? What do you think of it?