March 9, 2008, [MD]
I love Wikipedia (despite the occasional problems, unreasonableness, problems of governance and growing pains). One of the reasons I’ve always enjoyed contributing is that you are guaranteed an audience. Writing on this blog, for example, I never really know if anyone is reading. I can see my website statistics, but they are notoriously fickle - it proclaims to be able to sort out search engines, etc, but I never trust it entirely. That is why it is so gratifying when people leave comments, or when you suddenly find yourself linked to by other people, whom you didn’t even know were reading your blog (which happened to me twice today).
However, on Wikipedia you can rest assured that almost no matter how obscure the topic is, some people will read your article (the ominous “Citation needed tag” that inevitably pop up on any new article is proof of that). Part of the reason is that people patrol the recent changes list, and jump in to add categories, etc. But a big part of it is simply the massive amount of Wikipedia users, and their diverse interests. I’ve always wanted to have individual article statistics for different articles I wrote, and until now have had to content myself with the various top-100 articles lists that were produced.
However, today I came across a site that offers updated access statistics for all Wikipedia articles, across domains. It is great fun to look at some of the articles that I have created, or contributed significantly to. Podsol, which I often use as an illustration of how Wikipedia articles develop, gets between 30 and 60 hits per day, the very minimal article on the Indonesian city Atambua about ten a day. And my newest creation, the List of fiction set in Toronto has an average of at least 15 a day.
Looking at larger articles, the article on Kosovo (which I had no hand in creating) clearly shows how Wikipedia has become the place to go for people wanting to understand the news - there is a huge spike (see left) on the day that independence was declared, with an incredible 245,000 page views on that day alone. This exact trend was replicated for the Chinese Wikipedia’s article (a top of around 6,000 hits on the 18th), the Arabic Wikipedia (a top of 1,800 hits on the 18th), and even the Hindi Wikipedia, which went from no hits at all to 88 on the 18th. The Hindi Wikipedia still only has one single sentence however, which must have been quite depressing to those visiting the page eager for information. This should also serve as encouragement to those writing for the Hindi Wikipedia - there is demand for information in Hindi! Interestingly, in the Bengali Wikipedia, the same huge jump came, but only around the 24th/25th, which might reflect when the Bengali government made statements about recognition.
I could think of a lot of things to do with these statistics, especially because they are multilingual, and because of the nice way the interwiki links connect articles together - theoretically it would be quite possible to write a script that showed the graphs for the articles on any topic on for many different languages simultaneously, so that one could see how news spread around the world, for example.
(PS: Also have a look at the great page summarizing the international reactions to Kosovo’s declaration of independence, with almost 200 sources summarized in a very clear format - this should be a great page to show anyone who claims that Wikipedia is not “trustworthy”, and an example of information that you could probably not find in such a comprehensive form anywhere else - most of the article has even been translated into 12 other languages alread, including Arabic and Hungarian)Stian Håklev March 9, 2008 Toronto, Canada comments powered by Disqus