Navy Recruiter's Kids Use Podcast to Find Strange Wikipedia Connections

In this May 22, 2018, photo, Rosanna Brown, who is the Pendleton, Ore., half of the podcast "6 Degrees of Wiki" that she hosts with her sister, who lives in Portland, poses in Pendleton, Ore. (E.J. Harris/East Oregonian via AP)
In this May 22, 2018, photo, Rosanna Brown, who is the Pendleton, Ore., half of the podcast "6 Degrees of Wiki" that she hosts with her sister, who lives in Portland, poses in Pendleton, Ore. (E.J. Harris/East Oregonian via AP)

PENDLETON, Ore. — It's a common phenomenon for someone with internet access and some time to kill.

Trawling through Wikipedia's seemingly exponential number of articles and entries, a user clicks several links and before they know it, they've ended up on a topic that's a far cry from where they started.

It's commonly referred to as a Wikipedia "spiral," and two sisters have decided it offers enough material for a downloadable talk show.

Rosanna Brown and Nikki Katz host the "6 Degrees of Wiki" podcast, an online talk show that uses Wikipedia, the popular encyclopedic website with more than 6.5 million English-language entries, to connect seemingly unrelated topics in six steps.

In a recent episode, the sisters were tasked with linking the Trojan Horse, the mythical wooden horse the Greeks used to invade Troy, to Transylvania, a Romanian region most popular as the setting of "Dracula."

Katz, 36, played the role of quizmaster, cluing in Brown, 39, at the start of each round by giving her a rundown of each Wikipedia page before Brown gives her best guess (the sisters switch roles each month).

Brown's initial stab at guessing the ultimate link is a little thin.

"Episode 28 is brought to you by the letter T, because that's all they have in common," she said, leading to some laughs between the siblings.

Katz's journey through the spiral, which includes stops at the pages of Homer's "Odyssey," Suleiman the Magnificent, and the Siege of Vienna, includes plenty of asides where the sisters can further discuss interesting facts.

The crosstalk stays pretty lighthearted between the hosts: the darkest it gets is when Katz mentions that a priest who tried to warn the Trojans about the impending invasion is murdered by sea serpents sent by the Greek god Poseidon, spurring Brown into a fit of giggles.

Although the sisters have an easy rapport, they don't have the benefit of being in the same room.

More than 200 miles separate Katz, who lives in Portland, and the Pendleton-based Brown.

Brown said the distance actually aids their quiz format by preventing them from reading each other's body language.

"We're sisters, so we can talk without talking out loud," she said.

The daughters of a recruiter for the U.S. Navy, the sisters moved to Pendleton in 1996, when they were 17 and 14.

Katz eventually figured out she preferred to live in an urban environment and moved to Portland while Brown stayed in town, but they share a love of podcasts.

Both siblings have families and day jobs — Katz helps manage the Oregon Health and Science University website and Brown is an administrative/technical assistant for the Umatilla Morrow Radio and Data District — but that didn't prevent them from becoming podcasters themselves, starting out with audio reviews of movies, books, and TV before starting "6 Degrees of Wiki" six months ago.

The sisters wanted to replicate the feeling of a Wikipedia "spiral," an activity where a Wikipedia user goes deeper and deeper into a rabbit hole by clicking links embedded into the page. Brown and Katz have plenty of subjects to choose from.

They also wanted to keep the content clean — no cursing or adult topics — so that it could be a podcast children can listen to.

Katz said the learning curve was steep, especially in trying to produce a podcast with good sound quality.

The sisters have since settled into a groove, brainstorming throughout the week before committing to a night to record two episodes.

While they initially tried using internet software to record their podcast from their distant locations, the pair has settled into recording a phone call from both ends and splicing the results together.

After all the editing is done, Brown estimates the sisters dedicate about 10 to 15 hours per week to produce the podcasts.

While some podcasts have lucrative sponsorship deals, "6 Degrees of Wiki" is still a passion project for now.

The podcast averages about 100 downloads per episode, but the sisters said their audience is growing with each successive release, with some listeners tuning in from as far as Turkey and Canada.

As they look into setting up an account on Patreon, a subscription service that is popular with writers, artists, and podcasters, the sisters have recently ordered T-shirts and other merchandise embossed with the "6 Degrees of Wiki" logo.

Although they've found some success attracting international listeners, Brown and Katz hope some well-placed memorabilia and word-of-mouth will create local converts as well.

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Information from: East Oregonian, http://www.eastoregonian.com

This article was written by Antonio Sierra from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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