There’s so much news going on these days that it’s hard to keep up, so I decided I needed something to give me a quick backgrounder on a person/place/thing, provide me with links to credible information, and offer pointers to possible news events in the last couple of years. Remember the nosy neighbor Gladys Kravitz from the old Bewitched TV show? I needed a Gladys-In-A-Box.
So I made MegaGladys!
MegaGladys takes advantage of all the information held by Wikidata to make a quick overview of any person, place, or thing on Wikipedia. Enter a Wikipedia query and MegaGladys will do the following things:
- Find the page most closely matching your query.
- Look for data links about the page from WorldCat, the Library of Congress, ISNI, and NARA.
- Look for social media and social network links covering the following platforms: Instagram, Flickr, Pinterest, YouTube, SnapChat, Twitch, TikTok, Facebook, GitHub, SoundCloud, Telegram, Medium, Tumblr, Reddit, Parler, Gab, and Twitter.
- Check page views for the current and previous year and create a list of dates that might be newsworthy for the page’s topic. Google News and Google Web searches are created for that individual date. (This is a specific implementation of Gossip Machine.)
Here are a couple of ways I’m using MegaGladys already:
Getting Basic Background on a Person / Place / Thing
I don’t pay much attention to sports, but they’re a big part of our national conversation. To find an example, I went to Google and searched for famous sports stars and found Kevin Durant, who I recognized as a sports person but that’s about all I know. So I asked MegaGladys. Here’s the first part of what I got back: a picture, an overview, and links to reliable sources like WorldCat and the Library of Congress.
The second part provides information about social media accounts affiliated with that person. Mr. Durant is very busy being an excellent basketball player, so I would guess his social media interest is limited.
Here’s an example of a social network listing from the MegaGladys default search of Doja Cat, whose work as a musician is more conducive to social media activity.
Back to Mr. Durant. I have his picture and a basic overview, and I have links to authoritative sources like WorldCat which can provide links to MORE authoritative sources. This is where the WorldCat link on Kevin Durant’s result page will take you:
Okay, I now have an overview of Mr. Durant and his accomplishments and can even go read a book about him if I want to. Next time I end up in the middle of a basketball conversation perhaps I can spend slightly less time on Planet Clueless.
Not all searches are for learning about someone new, though. Sometimes it’s about catching up.
Catching Up On News About a Person / Place / Thing
There is so much news flying around nowadays that it’s hard to keep up. If you’re catching up with a new topic, you might find yourself bewildered by some of the players as what feels like a hundred years’ of news stacks up in a matter of weeks.
Say you’re doing some research and you come across Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada. If you’re not Canadian, you might not know much about him or recent news events concerning him. You can catch up via a little cheat sheet of recent major news events around Mr. Trudeau at the end of a MegaGladys search result:
These are the days that the Wikipedia page for Justin Trudeau had an unusually high number of page views according to MegaGladys. It’s not perfect (the fewer views a page normally has, the more wonky the results) but for famous topics (like political leaders) it works well. In this case, reviewing the dates here I would discover, among other things:
06/11/2021: Trudeau has a bunch of meetings with world leaders
09/21/2021: Canada election results
01/31/2022: Trudeau tests positive for Covid
09/19/2022: Trudeau / Canada’s response to the death of Queen Elizabeth II
There are a couple of bugs I’m working to squash in MegaGladys, but it should work mostly okay. If you find that after running two queries in a row that the information doesn’t refresh properly, just reload the page and you should be fine.
Putting this together gave me an idea for another project that’s next in the queue, but I’m thinking about making more topic-specific MegaGladyses (MegaGladii?) for music and books, as there’s a lot more data points specific to those two categories. We’ll see!
Categories: RB Search Gizmos
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