12 June 2011
If you follow the “Random Article” button through Wikipedia, the resulting trail of facts is not likely to be useful or coherent. It is more productive to navigate by means of internal links. Since any two articles are probably no more than two dozen clicks away from each other, this guarantees that you can find new areas of interest when the present topic is unappealing, but also that the succession of facts encountered will have a kind of order to them.
However, the Random Article button can lead to interesting finds. Earlier this evening it produced a list of German companies in 1907 by number of employees (most of the top entries involved railroads and manufacturing), which (by internal links) led in turn to the list of German companies in 1938 by number of employees, and then to the general — i.e. contemporary — list of companies by number of employees. The eighth entry on this list was G4S, a Danish “security services company”, which, it turns out, is the second largest private employer in the world, after Wal-Mart.
The really entertaining thing about G4S is that, despite the fact that it employs (according to Wikipedia) over 600,000 people worldwide and has existed for over a century, its article in English is under 1100 words long, and in Danish only 44 words.