In my seeming never ending quest to understand how important Wikipedia is to the skeptic community and to the world, I selected Brian Dunning's Skeptoid podcast for an experiment.
I choose Skeptoid for several reasons, first, I have probably listened to every episode at least once, find them informative and know that Wikipedia readers will enjoy them as well. (editing Wikipedia is all about editing pages you enjoy after all). They are available as a podcast as well as in written form which makes it really easy to quote from. Also Dunning is very organized with a podcast every week, and the way he has the episode guide laid out with dates and titles I was able to quickly organize in a Google Document for my own use.
Also when I explained what I was trying to do, Dunning immediately grasped the importance and has allowed me access to his web site stats, without which I could not analyze the impact of Wikipedia posts.
Let me summarize what I'm trying to prove and then get to the numbers.
Skeptoid is a podcast/blog that analyzes many topics that usually correspond with Wikipedia pages. Mostly they are paranormal topics (some very obscure) and a few like Darwinism are not. He even has a few pages that discuss historical topics (which are some of my favorites).
I discovered in a long conversation with other Wikipedia editors that Skeptiod is considered a reputable source for citations (way to go Dunning, not many podcasts can say that) when it comes to fringe topics. But not for more common topics like the "scientist", "raw food" "SUV" and "pitbull" ones. We actually got into it a bit and several Wikipedia editors sprang to his aid (I did not bring attention to the conversation) and championed his podcast. One editor had the nerve to say that podcasts can't be citations because the deaf could not listen to the podcasts. One person jumped on her comment saying how ridiculous that was and there was no policy for that, besides they pointed out Skeptoid has print as well as audio. It was quite obvious that some of his fans are also Wikipedia editors, very heart-warming.
Several Wikipedia pages like the ones mentioned above, I tried to just add an external link to the Skeptoid article which normally was reverted by other editors. Tim Farley explains that you should rarely leave external links, but instead add the article as a citation somehow, which are rarely reverted. External links are notorious for Spam. Well live and learn! There were a few pages that already had external links, I just cleaned up the citation and left it there. Also several of his podcasts do not have a corresponding Wikipedia page to leave a citation on (like several humorous ones).
So I copied his entire episode list into a Google document. On one page it has every episode and date as well as the corresponding Wikipedia page that has a link. Some of the episodes have more than one Wikipedia page, for example this episode "Orbs: The Ghost in the Camera (Skeptoid #29) - Are orbs really ghosts, or a common artifact of photography?" is mentioned on the Ghost Hunting page as well as the Orb (optics) page.
Someone had already left some links before I entered into the picture, looks like 2006 was the last time that editor was active. And while the citations were correct, I didn't think they looked as good as they could and maximize the amount of hits that were possible. So I started cleaning up the links and even used a couple as examples for the Cafe Inquiry workshop to repair.
For example the Bible Code Wikipedia page now has this...
- The Bible Code: Enigmas for Dummies - Do messages hidden within the Bible really predict the future?
The Bible Code: Enigmas for Dummies
See how much more inviting this looks to the reader? There were many examples of these short edits dating back to 2006, some were even shorter. Not only does this look more appealing, but a reader can click on the link about the Skeptoid article as well as to the Wikipedia page for Skeptoid.
When I started Project Skeptoid in November 2011 there were 206 episodes to link to. By the end of November there were 38 references to the podcast on the corresponding Wikipedia pages. His hit results were 1.4% of the total views to www.skeptoid.com coming from Wikipedia. I'm not going to tell you how many hits 1.4% is because I'm measuring this purely by percentages. Lets just say it is several thousand views.
So I cleaned up a few of the already existing citations and added 10 more Wikipedia pages to the hit count which by the end of January 2012 became 48 Wikipedia pages. He had been adding more episodes all this time bringing his count up to 296 episodes. A look at his stats again and the month of January 2012 hit 1.82%.
Remember that not all of these episodes can have a Wikipedia page, they were humor episodes or were already rejected by editors, and some were student question or listener feedback episodes which I haven't bothered trying to link to.
As you can see, there is potential for improvement. Several thousand readers are following the links from Wikipedia to the episode on Skeptoid.com. These readers probably aren't normal Skeptoid listeners otherwise they would have just gone to his site. The goal is to improve Wikipedia as well as the skeptical/critical thinking exposure to NOT the choir (you and I) but to the general public. In this example I think it shows we are making a difference.
In February 2012 I added a few changes and new links but I'm going to take a break from reporting numbers at least till the March or April stats are available. I want to really make some head-way on the Google document, my goal next time I check the stats I will see 3 or 4%. I could really use some help, please contact me if you can, I will train. firstname.lastname@example.org
Its a bit of an uphill battle to keep measuring against percentage of total Skeptoid.com views as the site becomes more popular he will naturally have more hits without Wikipeida. If someone can think of a better way of analyzing these numbers I would appreciate your thoughts.
By the way,
Regular Skeptoid fans you might be interested in which Wikipedia page is causing the majority of views back to his website.
HINTS - A very cold topic, this page only has an external link to follow and it has been overwhelmingly number one for both November and January with 5% of the total hits. This Wikipedia page receives about 130K views a month Click for Answer.