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US Senate Candy Desk (wikipedia.org)
128 points by akubera on Nov 18, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 40 comments

This type of article is why I love Wikipedia so much.

Really, this article has no place in any physical encyclopedia. It's essentially an anecdote. A footnote, at best.

But it's human interest, and it's fascinating, if inconsequential. And because of the collaborative power of Wikipedia, we can have a multi-paragraph informative article like this, maintained by regular people, down to the current contents of the candy desk, with links to the articles for the specific candies...

Of course, we all already know this about Wikipedia, we've known it since the start. But sometimes I forget this feeling, and then I'm especially struck by it when I read an articles like this.

When space is free (well, very cheap) it makes sense to document these things if they bring joy to the reader.

It's not free! Every article in Wikipedia imposes a human cost on the editors and maintainers of the project. That cost dwarfs any conceivable storage cost now, at the inception of the project, or even in the decade before the project.

(This is a great article and does illustrate something Wikipedia does better than conventional encyclopedias. At this point, I think the comparison to Britannica has become unhelpful; WP is sui generis, and one of the great (maybe the great) intellectual accomplishments of the Internet.

I think you're missing the point, though. This article simply couldn't be justified in a printed encyclopedia - there's a finite number of pages you can reasonably expect people to shell out for (and Britannia used to be a status symbol even at that limited number; being able to personally own it meant you were quite well off financially, as it cost well over a thousand dollars).

Yes, the limit in Wikipedia is not number of physical pages... but to be honest that wasn’t really the biggest limit for Britannica either, just the most obvious one.

The biggest limit is author/editor time. The Internet certainly provides a bigger pool of editors (and a lower implied quality floor) than a centralized company hiring authors/editors with a few people in charge of the organizing, the way print encyclopedias did.

But even with a completely decentralized worldwide editor corps, there is still some amount of organizational overhead which continues growing as the project grows, and there is still a finite amount of author/editor attention.

Wikipedia can’t in practice have an article about literally anything.

At least, that's the way it's been since the deletionists won in 2007.


> Wikipedia is not a paper encyclopedia, but a digital encyclopedia project. Other than verifiability and the other points presented on this page, there is no practical limit to the number of topics Wikipedia can cover or the total amount of content. However, there is an important distinction between what can be done, and what should be done, which is covered under § Encyclopedic content below. Consequently, this policy is not a free pass for inclusion: articles must abide by the appropriate content policies, particularly those covered in the five pillars.

It basically says if the content is encyclopedic by nature, meets guide of general notability, well-written to meet the quality standard, it has its full rights to be included, and niche topics are usually deleted. However, if it has been mentioned multiple times in books or by the media, even as anecdotes, it can be included, so it depends...

This is what the policy says, but this is not how the policy is implemented.


Something funny about Wikipedia is how it mirrors the way humans spread knowledge. Look for the same article in Wikipedia in different languages, and you find different information. Even further, many articles (such as this one) simply don't exist in other languages.

So good luck on bumping into information on the US Senate Candy Desk if you're only searching the French Wikipedia. Likewise, good luck bumping into an anecdotal article about France if you're only searching the English Wikipedia.

> how it mirrors the way humans spread knowledge. Look for the same article in Wikipedia in different languages [...]

And I add two additional points here.

1. English is the gateway language. Once an article has an English version, it is more likely to be translated into other languages.

2. Since this article is now being listed on the homepage of Hacker News, it's more likely to attract attention of a Wikipedia contributor who speaks another language, and eventually leads to a new translation.

Really interesting by itself.

> But it's human interest, and it's fascinating, if inconsequential.

Lol be careful or you'll invoke a non-notability deletion.

Sigh, notability in the Wikipedia sense [0] does not mean the same thing as "notable", as in "note-worthy". Rather, it has to do with whether the topic has had significant coverage in reliable sources. The OP article is well-referenced and is in no danger of being deleted. I guess misconceptions like this is one reason not to overload terms that might have other assumed meanings.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Notability

Fair enough, I did not know the distinction. But I intended the reply to be tongue-in-cheek.

Also, TIL that the Capitol has its own subway system.

From the article:

In 1965, California's George Murphy joined the Senate, and kept candy in his desk to offer his colleagues, and for himself, though eating is not allowed on the Senate floor. When he left the Senate after a six-year term, other Republican senators maintained the custom. ...

Murphy replaced Pierre Salinger, who himself was was appointed to serve the remainder of a deceased senator's term:

In 1964, he [Murphy] was elected as a Republican to the Senate, having defeated Pierre Salinger, the former presidential press secretary in the Kennedy White House, who had been appointed several months earlier to serve the remainder of the late Clair Engle's unexpired term.


The deceased senator, Clair Engle, is best known for having participated, although paralyzed and unable to speak because of a brain tumor, in the vote to break the filibuster against the Civil Rights Act:

On June 10, 1964, during the roll call for the historic, successful effort to break the filibuster on what would become the Civil Rights Act of 1964, when the clerk reached "Mr. Engle", there was no reply. The tumor had robbed Engle of his ability to speak. Slowly lifting an arm, he pointed to his eye, thereby signaling his affirmative vote ("aye").[6] The cloture vote was 71–29, four votes more than the two thirds required to end the filibuster.[7] Nine days later, the Senate approved the Act itself.


This article made me really hopeful and happy until i got down the the bit about the democrats candy desk and realized that even the senate candy desk is partisan.

The two parties can't even agree on a shared love of sweets, and have to have separate candy desks?

I think you’re reading too much into it... the candy desk is always a republican because it is on the republican side of the chamber. Perhaps democrats just wanted to be able to grab candy on their side of the chamber. Or they wanted different candy than the one that the republican member had selected for the desk.

Either way, it’s candy, who cares? We’re talking about a workplace candy drawer.

I mean if the Dems win enough seats they could occupy the candy desk? :) Something insane like 80.

... and the Republican desk is stocked by contributions from donor companies in their districts, and the Democratic desk is stocked by a fund paid into by Senators who want candy.

It's emblematic, that's for sure.

If you check the article again, it addresses this: the desk is stocked from donor companies in the Senator's district because it has to be, due to Senate gift rules.

If I may quote the post you're replying to:

> the Democratic desk is stocked by a fund paid into by Senators who want candy.

They could buy it themselves... I am sure they can afford it.

They could "afford" it, but it's not cheap, the Wikipedia article said that Hershey was sending 400 lbs of chocolate a year. The cheapest price I could find online (after a very brief search) for Hershey's kisses is $5.79/lb, so that's over $2000/year - that's a lot of money to pay to feed your colleagues just because you happened to sit at a particular desk.

Per the article, the Democrats' candy desk is funded by donations from senators who want candy. It doesn't have to be either a single senator or corporate gifts.

Emblematic of the false sense of superiority from a party that accepts corporate money just like the evil sponsored candy party.

Is it though?

I think the Republicans just made it a tradition first, so companies want to be a part of that. I don't think it means anything, it's just how it happened.

...but the result is emblematic.

Given that it's on the Republican side of the chambers, near an entrance, I'd argue this is actually a positive sign: the other side of the aisle saw a good idea and adopted it. The partisan response would have been demagoguing it.

And Bernie Sanders, being an independent, presumably has to supply his own candy.

I don't know that it's partisan... perhaps there are different tastes for which multiple locations make sense?

You're reading too far into a drawer full of candy.

It's just on that side of the room, nothing further to dig up.

To a non-USian, the fact that the Senate has 'sides' allocated to the two major parties is revealing and alarming.

Where are the sides for the Greens, or the Monster Raving Looney Party?

How secure is the candy desk?

Also-- can you imagine being all excited about your first day at the NSA and they tell you your job is securing the candy desk?

The US Capitol Police would be in charge of reviewing security for the Candy Desk (if there is any consideration for such a thing, might be surprised that there isn't).

And the NSA would be in charge of whispering to the U.S. Capitol Police when something needs to be reviewed.

Sorry, I set you up for that one. :)

(Should have left a little hash of this comment in the original comment.)

How are withdrawals from this desk tracked? How is it's assignment handed out? Do these "candies" influence the votes of those who take them - maybe senators are less likely to vote against the "Candy Man"

After all, even small gifts from reps have been shown to influence doctors:


I need to start this tradition at work. Different teams have their own candy but not one has them for everyone.

I have one at work that is open to the 120+ people on my floor. Stop by to have Snickers, 3 Musketeers, Milkyway, red licorice, Hershey's kisses and my fav, peanut butter cups. I do a pound a week. People take and a few put a 5 or 10 under the jar sometimes. I'm overflowing now with Halloween candy donations. But overall I spend about $50 a year on candy. It's a good trade for goodwill and the daily scuttle butt.

What I love about Wikipedia is how it'll go a step further with the trivia, like the Tenants section.


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