Wikipedia:Researching Wikipedia

Researching Wikipedia (formerly known as State of Wikipedia) discusses some ways to quantitatively measure various aspects of Wikipedia project as well as covers research done in that area. The subject is difficult, as there are different goals that Wikipedia may have, and different ways of measuring achievement of those goals.


Raw numbers

A hard way of measuring success is to count the number of articles in Wikipedia. This information can be found on the Statistics page. A problem with just counting the number of articles is, what is an "article"? A large percentage of our "articles" may be extremely short stubs, or even just consist of uncaught vandalism. {{merge}}ing stubby articles leads to fewer, better articles, without losing any content. A more accurate measure of the size of Wikipedia is the number of characters or words in articles. Wikipedia as of October 2006 had 1.4 million articles with an average length of 3,300 characters.

Such a measurement gives no indication of the quality of content. It is much more difficult to estimate the number of good, useful, accurate, or balanced articles in Wikipedia. For this, we may only take into account articles that have been in some way assessed, either as "featured", "good", "A-" or "B-Class" articles. As of February 2007, one in ca. 550 articles on Wikipedia is either "featured" or "good".

One way to think about the Statistics page is to consider it a measure of Wikipedia's success as a project rather than as a reference work. Since it is a project for producing a reference work (with community building being a side effect, not a secondary goal), assessment of success of the project will be directly tied to assessment of the reference work.

Relevance to the Web

Another way to consider Wikipedia success is to ask how relevant Wikipedia's information is to the World Wide Web. How many hits per day does the Wikipedia site receive? How many readers come from Google? Which pages have high Google PageRank?

A measure of Wikipedia's popularity is provided by its entry on Alexa which shows its web traffic rankings.

One measure that's valuable, but difficult to automate, is to consider Wikipedia:Top 10 Google hits. Of the subjects already in Wikipedia, how many are good enough references that they get high page ranking at Google?

Yet another measurement might involve the number of, or degree to which, other sites use Wikipedia's content. The fact that a number of other sites trust the accuracy of Wikipedia's content is a strong indicator of its success.


Another axis to consider is Wikipedia coverage. Coverage is a measure of how much of the information we need in Wikipedia is already there. How well does Wikipedia "cover" the range of knowledge that it should?

One way to think of coverage is to imagine some kind of "endpoint" in the future – Edit Zero – where all the information that's Wikipedia-worthy is in the system. At that point, the work of Wikipedians will change from writing about existing subjects, to adding articles about new subjects as new people, events, countries, awards ceremonies, species, albums, books, and planets come into being. A measure of Wikipedia's current coverage would be to measure how many of the articles in that imagined encyclopedia already exist in some useful form.

This is, in most ways, an immeasurable metric. We don't know how many articles will be in Wikipedia at Edit Zero, so we can't know what percentage of those we already have. The best we can hope to do is approximate the "real" coverage metric with some ad hoc measurements.

Some proposed approximations:

  • Of the entries in the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, how many have corresponding Wikipedia articles? (Totally crude, but if we were back in 1911, wouldn't we want to have at least as much knowledge as the EB? Close to it?)
  • What percentage of Wikipedia searches come up empty? (This would measure what percentage of things Wikipedia readers think should be in the system are already there.)
  • Of the internal links inside Wikipedia, what percentage point nowhere? How many have non-stub articles at the endpoint? (This would measure what percentage of things Wikipedia authors think should be in the system are already there.)

Note that the Edit Zero model is simplistic in expecting the number of Wikipedia-worthy articles to converge at some point in the future.

List of conducted studies and other resources

Wikipedia (primarily) and other Wikimedia projects are increasingly generating research concerned with studying phenomena responsible for their functioning. Some of that research has been published in professional academic journals, or presented at conferences: see Wikipedia:Academic studies of Wikipedia.

However a significant number of other inquiries are not published in such journals, and as a result, Wikipedia namespace on Wikipedia, as well as some pages on our Meta wiki and likely on other projects has been increasingly filled with such short research papers, essays and other resources. meta:Research is the place where such research is supposed to be coordinated, but in fact majority of tools and papers can be found on English Wikipedia. Below is a guide to those resources.

Category:Wikipedia statistics

Note 1: Most interesting and more-or-less up-to-date projects are bolded.

Note 2: Graphs, charts and such should be added to Category:Wikipedia charts


  • Editors: about editors
  • Users: about users
  • Articles: about articles
  • Technical: technical aspects of the projects (software, code...)
ItemDescription and commentsLast updated as ofTime series fromAnalysisHas tables/listsHas chartsKeywords
Administrator statistics: User:NoSeptember/The NoSeptember Admin ProjectLots of admin-related stats, many subpages.Feb 2007To the beginning, as much as possibleYesYesYesEditors
AnnouncementsAnnouncements about 1) Important milestones, statistics and Alexa ranking news concerning the English Wikipedia (see Special:Statistics) 2) Any news concerning the Wikimedia Foundation that affects the English Wikipedia.MonthlySince January 2001Press release typeYesNo
Articles for deletion statsRough stats about AfD, see subpages. Particularly useful: Wikipedia:AFD 100 days: A computer script designed by Dragons flight was used to parse 100 days of AFD logs from June 1, 2005 – September 8, 2005 searching for bolded keywords (e.g. delete, keep, merge, redirect, kill, cleanup, etc) in signed comments. This has allowed a large statistical sample to be generated from which important patterns in voting and article deletion behavior might be identified.January 2006February 7SomeYesNoArticles
Articles per populationThe number of Wikipedia articles that exist in a language per million total speakers of that languageSeptember 2006None but history shows series of updates from November 2005NoYesNoArticles
Awareness statisticsAttempts to measure the growth in public awareness of Wikipedia. Primarily concerned with Wikipedia's Alexa ratings, i.e. 'how popular Wikipedia is'.Varies, but most tables are up to date as of 7 January 2007; charts are labelled January 2006Varies, from October 2002 and laterYesYesYesUsers
BrowsersWhat browsers are used to access English WikipediaSeptember 2004History shows old data from April 2004NoYesNoTechnical, Users
Featured article statisticsSome basic statistics on Featured articles.MonthlyJanuary 2004YesYesYesArticles
Good article statisticsSome basic statistics on Good articles.February 2007November 2005YesYesYesArticles
What Google likedGoogle has a web page called Google Zeitgeist about search patterns and trends for the web in general. This can tell us at Wikipedia what people are looking for. Do we have content for them to find? If not, it would be good for us to have as high priority the creating of such a listing, especially for the most recent top ten searches. Ideally, the Google Zeitgeist stats should match the Google to Wikipedia links stats. See also Wikipedia:Articles which are number one for one word Google searches and Wikipedia:Zeitgeist (2004 data)March 7, 2003November 2001YesYesNoUsers, Technical
List of Wikipedians by number of editsName is self-explanatory.May 200816 June 2004A littleYesNoEditors
List of Wikipedians by number of recent editsName is self-explanatory.May 2008May 2004NoYesNoEditors
Milestone statisticsLanguages (dates milestones (defined as number of articles in given Wikipedia) reached, in order of reaching them)February 2007None, but history shows updates from Nov 2004NoYesNoArticles
Modelling Wikipedia's growthThis page analyses the article count data in Wikipedia:size of Wikipedia and attempts to fit a simple numerical model of past and future growth to the observed article count size and growth data.November 2006June 2003 if you want to dig through historyYesNoYesArticles
Most referenced articlesThese are the most referenced articles as found in the database dump of January 25, 2006.January 25, 2006August 14, 2003 in page historyYesYesNoArticles
Most frequently edited pagesObvious.May 2008January 2004NoYesNoArticles
Most popular pages October 2001Obvious and not updated. See Popular pages.October 2001NoYesYesNoArticles
Most-edited talk pagesHere are the talk pages with the most revisions, as of November 11, 2003.November 11, 2003February 2003NoYesNoArticles
Growth of Wikipedians by language. Many pages in the category, particularly interesting: Wikipedia:Multilingual monthly statistics (panorama) and Wikipedia:Multilingual statistics.February 2007July 2001SometimesYesNoArticles
People by yearUses birth and death categories to count number of articles about people born/dead in a given year. See also Wikipedia:People by year/Reports.July 2005September 2004NoYesNoArticles, Technical
PoolsPools have been created in which people make guesses about various future milestones for Wikipedia, with milestones defined as 'when will Wikipedia reach x-number of articles'. May be useful for some prediction analysis.VariousVariousN/AYesNo
Popular pagesA list of pages ordered by number of views in recent monthMay 2008April 2004NoYesNoArticles
Wikipedia:Productivity of Wikipedia AuthorsActivity of editors per language of Wikipediamid-2006NoYesYesNoEditors
Researching WikipediaThis page discusses some ways to quantitatively measure our success with Wikipedia. Basically an essay about Wikipedia statistics.2003NoYesNoNoAll
Search engine statisticsIt records data about the frequency and prominence with which Wikipedia appears in search engines (Google).November 2005NoYesYesYesArticles, Technical
Size comparisonsThis article compares the size of Wikipedia with other encyclopedias and information collections.February 2007September 2002 in article's historyYesYesNoArticles, Users
Size of WikipediaOld statistics page. Mostly historical.Some up to date, some not.Check history.YesYesYesArticles, Users
Wikipedia:StatisticsThe main official statistics page.Mostly up to date.December 2001, but nothing useful there.YesNoNoAll
Stub percentagesWith Wikipedia crossing one million articles in early 2006, I asked a simple question: what proportion of those articles are stubs?July 2005NoYesNoYesArticles
Wikimania 2006 Wikipedian SurveyA small survey on the reasons behind the success of Wikipedia. Open ended questions: What drives people to edit Wikipedia in the first place? Why do editors stay with the project? What has editing Wikipedia given you in return? Anything else that you would like to add? How old are you? How often do you edit? What is your highest user level (anonymous, registered user, admin, bureaucrat, steward, developer, board member, jimbo)?Summer 2006Not repeatedYesNoNoEditors
Wikipedia interwiki and specialized knowledge testHow much more information there is for Wikipedia to assimilate?22 July 2006Not updatedYesNoNoArticles
Requested Articles Bot statsThis page shows the current number of requests on each of the requested article pages that the RABot can process. Also shown is the max/min number of requests that have been observed on each page since the bot started running and the number of completed requests that the RABot has removed. The "per day" figures reflect the number of days that RABot has been used as an aid on each page, which may be less than total number of days the script has existed. Initial cleaning, including the hundreds of requests removed the first time this was run, are not included in these totals.June 2006June 2005YesYesNoArticles
Wikipedia:Statistics DepartmentThis project, the Statistics Department, provides a space for contributors interested in statistics to discuss what to measure when, and how.inactiveinactivesomenono
Words per articleOne of the metrics in the Wikipedia:Size comparisons page is the number of words per article. Some Wikipedians anticipate the rate of new article creation eventually slowing down, and effort going instead to improve the quality of existing articles. This page examines a couple of trends loosely associated with quality: the number of words per article, and the number of revisions per article.October 2005January 2001YesNoYesArticles
Does Wikipedia traffic obey Zipf's law?Zipf's lawSeptember 2006NoYesNoYesUsers
Wikipedia:Xiong's statsThis is a preliminary analysis of selected English Wikipedia statistics over the period from 2002 January to 2005 March. Data is examined for evidence of a shift in Wikipedian Community values and cultural makeup.2005 March2002 JanuaryYesNoYesArticles, Users, Editors
Wikipedia:TrafficSome late 2002 / early 2003 daily traffic figures for the English-language Wikipedia in hits/day:20032002YesYesYesUsers
WikiProject creation trendsUsing WikiProjects-related meta-data as a window on Wikipedia evolution.July 2005NoneYesNoYesEditors, Articles

Category:Wikipedia resources for researchers

Category description:

This category aims to include resources for researchers in two capacities:

  1. . Using Wikipedia as a research tool (see Wikipedia:Researching with Wikipedia)
  2. . About Wikipedia as a research subject (see meta:Research)

We are interested in the 2nd subcategory which surprisingly has very few pages.

ItemDescription and comments
Wikipedia:WikiProject WikidemiaThis project, Wikidemia, provides a space for articles related to academic research about Wikipedia. Semi-active. Wikipedia:Wikipediology is a forgotten inactive version, it appears.
Wikipedia:Academic studies of WikipediaAn incomplete list of academic presentations and papers on Wikipedia.
Wikipedia:User surveyForgotten proposal, see meta:General User Survey for a little more advanced, unfortunately also inactive. See also Wikipedia:University of Würzburg survey, 2005.
Wikipedia:Researching with WikipediaWhile it is a resource for the first category, it is a good article and a good introduction to Wikipedia from a more academic perspective.

Category:Wikipedia tools

The following tools are useful for research/stats analysis of Wikipedia and related projects.

ItemDescription and commentsKeywords
API queryThis API provides a way for your applications to query data directly from the MediaWiki servers. One or more pieces of information about the site and/or a given list of pages can be retrieved. Information may be returned in either a machine (xml, json, php, yaml, wddx) or a human readable format. More than one piece of information may be requested with a single query.
IBM History Flow toolA nice tool from 2004 (download) that led to this article, unfortunately there is no (known to me) 'how-to' use it, and it was designed for pre-1.5 MediaWiki (SQL-based), meaning it may be mostly worthless now. If somebody can update and create a sensible 'how to use it', please do.
WhodunitQueryA Windows-based application developed for the English language Wikipedia. With it, the user can load any Wikipedia article, select a certain phrase, and, with one click, it will search through the page's history to determine who added the phrase. May be quite useful for some content analysis.
Edit countersEditcounters. Easiest way to get some useful statistical data on this side of trying to deal with database dumps. Particularly useful: TDS' Article Contribution Counter: list of contributors to the article by number of contributors (lumps anon's together, use this to get a list of anons); Interiot user stats Tool 3 and Tool 1 (different layout – different stats accessible easier in each one). Flcelloguy's Tool – I will test it soon, looks very promising. List of articles created by user.
ScriptsI find the following scripts useful for gathering data: History and Edit Summary Use Analysis (useful, but can crash browser from time to time, and description ('codebook...') of some stats it calculates is not very clear), New pages log and New Users log edit counters (haven't tried that yet)
WikiXRay on metaThe main goal of this project is to develop a robust and extensible software tool for an in-depth quantitative analysis of the whole Wikipedia project. Looks promising but not very user friendly at the moment (pre-alpha level)).
WikiEvidensWikiEvidens is a statistical and visualization tool for wikis.

Category:Wikipedia essays

See also