The Sunday after Thanksgiving I wrote about a new book, “Who’s Bigger?” that uses an algorithm to chew on Wikipedia data and rank the most significant people who ever lived. There are some obvious problems with using Wikipedia as a data source, including its tendency to overemphasize the stature of English speakers, Americans, and contemporary figures. I mentioned these issues and noted that contemporary celebrities like Eminem (ranked the 823d most important person who ever lived) and Miley Cyrus (2,009th) might land a bit too high on the book’s list.
In a blog post published several days later, Steven Skienna, coauthor of the book with Google engineer Charles Ward, jumped in to defend his method. He argued that both Eminem and Miley are “among the most famous individuals in the world, and that has to count for something.” Skienna also wrote that their rankings start to look sturdier when compared with celebrities whose reputations have largely solidified: