I am Michael Mandiberg, an artist and programmer who turned Wikipedia into 7473 print books. AMA!
I am an interdisciplinary artist and programmer who works on and off the internet. I sold all my possessions online at http://Mandiberg.com/shop, made perfect copies of copies at http://aftersherrielevine.com/ and created browsers plugins that highlight environmental issues at http://therealcosts.com/. You can find out more at http://Mandiberg.com.
In 2009 I started a project to turn all of Wikipedia into books. The code parses the entirety of the database, turns it into print ready PDFs and uploads it to Lulu.com for print on demand. We just started uploading the upload, which you can follow here: https://twitter.com/PrintWikipedia.
Ask me anything: technical or poetic!
Update: Thanks everyone for your questions today. Feel free to follow the upload progress on twitter: https://twitter.com/printwikipedia
Is it expected to catch up with the site or will it always be behind since there are too many pages being created in comparison with how fast your converting goes?
Yes, xkcd is relevant, as always
It will always already be out of date. I'm working from the April 7th database dump. It takes Wikipedia about a month to do a full database backup. And then it takes me about 5+ weeks to run all the code to transform the corpus into books. THEN it takes another 2 weeks to upload! So it isn't really possible given this structure, nor do I think it is necesary.
Thank you! One more question, then: What happens when a Wikipedia page gets altered? Does this even matter or do you automatically update the entire database every month?
For the purposes of this project, I don't think it is necessary to update it every month. Maybe once a year. But not every month.
You have done some incredible things but my questions is merely What made you decide to sell of your possessions? Was there a driving force behind the decision? Gutted i missed out on that half used tube of toothpaste
LOL re toothpaste. I have to say, I was disappointed no one every bought any food or toiletries.
I made that work in a very specific moment when the dot.com bubble was bursting. I was working at an e-commerce site, and news was just going onto the web. I remember pressing refresh on CNN.com to see if there were any updates on the hanging chad of Bush v Gore, and checking in daily with a site called http://fuckedcompany.com/ that was a proto-blog cataloguing all of the companies going out of business. Workers were going home with parts of the company (Dell towers, and Aeron chair) in lieu of weeks of pay.
That context catalyzed me to transform some work I had been doing cataloguing my posessions organzed by color in photographs to think less about documenting these things, to distributing them.
is there a demand for print form of websites?
Actually yes, there is an interest in printing the web. James Bridle made a great set of books cataloguing the history page for the Iraq War page on Wikipedia. Kenneth Goldsmith tried to print out the web in a show in Mexico City (obviously a poetically futile act). And Paul Soulellis has been cataloguing this work in books. It goes under the hashtag #PrintedWeb.
Did you always think of this project as being on the epic scale that it is now, or did it start as a something smaller?
I knew it would be big, but I had no idea how epic it would end up. Honestly I don't think anyone did, including the folks who work on the engineering side of Wikipedia. One of them happened to be in NYC yesterday when we were setting up, and said as much when he came through the show.
I especially didn't realize how the tools I was using to tackle the problem would have difficulty scaling.
Hello Michael, A few questions if you don't mind answering 1. What is your Favorite part about being a Programmer? 2. What advice would you give someone who is currently studying in the Information Technology Field who wants to be a programmer? 3. What things outside of "Learning from school" should one do to be a successful programmer? 4. If they told you had the ability to change the world with a few clicks on your laptop what would you do ?
Okay, here goes:
- My favorite part about being a programmer is being able to alter the tools and structures that increasingly control our world. Mind you, as an individual, you can only do small things.
2 + 3 combined: I have basically zero formal training in programming beyond learning how to program a Ti-82 in my high school Calculus class. I've learned it all from mentors and friends, books (which dates me) like Learning Perl (which dates me even further), YouTube tutorials, etc. So I think the most important thing I've had to learn, is how to learn. Because of the way I work, I regularly have to learn new languages (I had to learn Java to do this project).
- I don't think I could do this from my laptop in a few clicks, but if I could change something it would be to make ALL the governments of the world (especially ours) realize the problem that Global Warming poses to the world, and act on it as one.
Who is your most favorite artist of all time?
Well, a year or two ago I would have said Marcel Duchamp without thinking, but seeing as he seems to have appropriated most of his appropriations from the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, maybe I should say the Baroness is my favorite?
More here: http://www.theartnewspaper.com/articles/Did-Marcel-Duchamp-steal-Elsas-urinal/36155 (seems broken, but this is the main source) And here: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/nov/07/duchamp-elsa-freytag-loringhoven-urinal-sexual-politics-art
Your actually very motivated. What made you want to do this?
I do most of the things I do because I want to discover what they look like. I wanted to see how big it was. Which is maybe more than just wanting to know how big it would be. I wanted to see it.
100 Duck sized horses, or 1 Horse sized duck?
I would have to agree with Bill Nye: Those big duck legs would snap, and the little horses would freeze. My guess is the duck legs would snap first.
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