FAQ

Answers to some natural and to some preposterous questions.

By year

Every year we build a ranking, so you can see what has changed. Just press the date button and you'll see the same results for a different year. You can see which ideas were central in 2015 and 2016, for example.

Wikidata is not perfect

Wikidata is an ongoing project. Some information is missing: when we looked for great jazz singers Billie Holiday was not there, because no one ever set her “genre” to “jazz” (we did). David Cronenberg is listed as a co-director of “The Truman Show” because of a mistaken automatic import from the Italian version of Wikipedia (we corrected that). If you look for classical music you'll see a lot of important people missing: the “genre” tag is at this time very unpolished (e.g., sometimes associated with “classical period” and sometimes with “classical music”). The most important album of all times seems to be Röksopp's “Suzerainty”, but if you follow the link you'll see it's instead a complex political concept: Wikipedia has only the concept, and Wikidata has only the album, so there is no way to disambiguate.

Look directly into Wikidata to find an explanation of puzzling results.

Wikidata classifications might look weird

If you look for scientists, you'll find that Michael Jackson is among the first twenty! For Wikidata he is a writer, so he is a “humanities scholar”, which means he's a scientist, too, as Wikidata uses “scientist” in a very broad sense. Better look for physicists, even if that category has some surprises, too.

If you try “movie”, you won't get anywhere, as Wikidata uses “film” for that purpose. Once again, look directly into Wikidata.

Some results are apparently inexplicable

If you look for people who were born in Milan, Italy, using birthplace:milan, you'll find that the most prominent is Thomas Edison, who was born indeed in Milan, Ohio, US. birthplace:milan citizenship:italy is a better query.

Obvious limitations

The English version of Wikipedia is slanted towards the English culture

This is quite obvious, but it becomes very evident if you use the link structure to identify important pages.

Global rankings privilege more global phenomena

If someone is world famous at doing something, it will be at the top of any other activity he or she performs if the activity involves not-so-famous-people.

People have different opinions

Are the Beatles a pop band, a rock band, a band, or what else? At the time of this writing, they are classified as a “rock band”, but in principle that might change if someone edits Wikidata.

The full syntax

  • When you write a term, it is interpreted as an “instance of” Wikidata specification. So “human” selects human beings. For all other categories, you must write the category, followed by a colon, followed by the term. If there are spaces, they must be replaced with underscores. The current categories are “instanceof”, “gender”, “occupation”, “language”, “citizenship”, “birthplace”, “genre”, “country”, “director”, and “cast”.

  • Spaces should be replaced by underscores, as in director:orson_welles.

  • You can use the vertical bar to have an OR of specifications, the exclamation mark to negate, and group elements with parenthesis. So ( occupation:chemist | occupation:biologist ) citizenship:russia will show Russian chemists and biologists.

  • Negation can be useful to filter out unwanted items. For example, instead of looking for films with film you might want to use film ! television_program.