Monday, March 31, 2008

I Want to Be a Statistic

Why do people talk about being a statistic as if it were always a negative thing?

There's a wonderful little tool for Wikipedia page view statistics. It reveals how many page views any Wikipedia article received in February 2008 and might hint at other things. For instance, the major candidates of the United States presidential election:

New numbers are out for March:

  • Obama's bio went down to 1,107,123 page views.
  • McCain's bio received 771,280 views.
  • Clinton's page got 299,969 views.

Obviously the February peak had to do with the primary elections. It could be an interesting to debate the relative numbers: is Obama getting so many views because he has momentum, or is it because the other two candidates have been in the public eye for longer and more people have already made up their minds about them?

Wikipedians could be using this tool more often to prioritize our content work. The differences are even more dramatic for articles I've worked on. Here are the March page views of an older featured article and two newer good articles:

Although I take pride in having brought the "Navajo rug" article up from a stub, my own user space actually gets more traffic. That's a surprise.

The Joan of Arc article nearly got into Wikipedia's top 1000 most visited pages in February. It's up about 20,000 views for March so when the new numbers come out it might be listed. I suppose more students write term papers later in the spring.

So keeping the textile arts Wikiproject in mind, I compared two pages. "Sumptuary law" is an article I recently tagged for the project. It already has over 50 inline citations and could probably become a good article with a bit more research and copyediting. "Beadwork" is the most underdeveloped article among the textile arts core topics. I've felt embarrassed about that sometimes. I'd expect the basic article to get more traffic than the academic topic, but the numbers don't bear that out:

With hundreds of articles in the WikiProject and not enough volunteers to work on everything at once, this could be very useful. We do get substantial traffic at some of these pages. Here's one that could certainly bear improvement.

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