Drop-out compared

2011 April main page tutorial first second page last page
nl 7 steps 6616063 22809 3655 746
de 7 steps 36578909 10295 3217 1041
en 9 steps 146254073 26483 13219 2572
sv 9 steps 3627675 505 899 258

These numbers compare the tutorials in different Wikipedias. For example the tutorial in Dutch Wikipedia has nine steps; its first page is linked via the left side bar and this causes quite a lot of clicks. From the first to the second page the Dutch tutorial looses a lot of viewers, and in the end from 22,809 only 746 endure.

Other tutorials are not linked via the left side bar, and have considerably less views (in comparison to the main page). But it seems that they keep much more readers from the first to the last page. In Swedish (sv) Wikipedia the second page has much more views than the first one, possibly because other pages in that Wikipedia link to that second page (and others). The loss from first to second page seems to be the biggest in Dutch Wikipedia.

Lessons to learn:

  • Have on your main page and left side bar a link to your tutorial
  • Take good care of your first tutorial page, if it is confusing you immediately lose a lot of people
  • Whether you have seven or nine tutorial pages seems not to be too important

English language: Thanks, but no thanks

So this is Wikipedia NOT about.

‘English is like a wonderful woman’, a friend told me, ‘you can’t live with her and you can’t live without her’. By the way, he is a teacher of English in Germany.

In the Wikimedia world, English is the central and relay language. Important texts are originally written in English or reach most of the users via an English translation. This gives phrases in English an enormous influence, even where they should be rephrased or reconsidered.

For example, there is that phrase by Richard Stallman: ‘Think of free as in speech, not free as in beer.’By this, he wanted to characterize the essence of free software / free knowledge. I never really understood that phrase until Chuck Smith explained to me that this relates to a speciality of the English language. In English, ‘free’ is understood usually as ‘gratis’. In other languages such as German you can simply say ‘frei’ or ‘gratis, kostenlos’. Referring to freedom of speech and free beer in German is only confusing.

In the recent Editor survey of Wikimedia, the German translation mentions a “lokales Chapter”. This is of course the 1:1 “translation” of local chapter. But in German the English word chapter is hardly known, and the German word “lokal” relates not to countries but to cities.

German Wikipedians tend to talk about “Referenzen”, “reputable Quellen” or “Primärquellen und Sekundärquellen”. These are unreflected take-overs from English, without regard to the traditional German expressions: “Verweise”, “einschlägige Literatur”, “Quellen und Literatur”. Contributing to this is certainly the fact that many Wikipedians have a techie background.

Especially confusing are the take-overs to new people.  Wikipedia jargon in German is terrible enough, English words or pseudo translations make it worse. When I speak English I try to speak English without German influence (I know that I don’t always succeed), when I speak German I try to speak German without English influence.

The Wikipedia countries and language version map of Arabia

 

This is a map (pdf-version) based on the numbers published by Erik Zachte, statistics manager of Wikimedia Foundation. It answers to the question which language versions of Wikipedia are mostly visited in a specific country.

Similar to the map of Europe, we see that only a small number of languages is relevant. In all of these countries, where Arabic Wikipedia is visited according to the statistics, English has an important role. In none of these countries Arabic Wikipedia is dominant, while in some European languages the national language version is. It should be noted that a part of the success of English is caused by the fact that in some Arabic countries internet is used especially by foreign residents of North American or European origin.

Very clearly we become aware of French colonial past, mostly in North Western Africa. In countries such as Morocco French Wikipedia even has more significance than English. One of the most important languages in the region is Hebrew (or Ivrit) due to the economic and democratic status of Israel. In general, people in the countries on this map visit Wikipedia much less than in Europe. While Germany has a share of the global total of 7.3%, Israel’s is 0.4% and Djibouti’s only 0.002%.

Update: See also the map about where the page views come from.

The Wikipedia country and language version map of Europe

 

This is a map (pdf-version) based on the numbers published by Erik Zachte, statistics manager of Wikimedia Foundation. It answers to the question which language versions of Wikipedia are mostly visited in a specific country.

At first glance there is no obvious pattern in the map. Still, the countries can be divided into four groups:

* English hegemony

* National hegemony

* Dual hegemony

* Mixed situation

In a number of countries, especially on the Balkans, English is the most read Wikipedia language. In others, there is a national or official language that champions the field, for example in France and Poland. (In the case of Britain, English and the national language are the same.) The third major group consists of the countries where English and the national language both share the hegemonic role (the Netherlands, Norway, Hungary).

The last group, ‘mixed’, contains only a small number of countries, most prominent Belgium and Switzerland, to a certain degree also Bosnia & Hercegovina. These are ethnically/linguistically mixed countries.

Usually, languages learned at school or languages of neighbouring countries do not play a notable role. An exception is Italian in Albania; other cases such as Polish in Lithuania can be explained with ethnic minorities.

The conclusion: Europeans primarily consult the Wikipedia language version in their native language. If that version is weak (and also depending on other factors), they consult the English version.

 

 

Historian: Wikipedia falls down on core task

Historian Peter Haber, PhD, is a Wikipedia-fan. To him, reading Wikipedia is even natural as earlier reading Brockhaus encyclopedia. Many colleagues are skeptical, but they never talk about it. So he and his students in Vienna examined some articles closely. His conclusion: Wikipedia is not so suitable for its core task – giving comprehensive guidance to get started about a subject.

What? Wikipedia is not the best first step to learn about a new subject, historian Peter Haber says.

Haber criticizes that the English language article about Engelbert Dollfuss mentions at large the shortness of this Austro-Fascist chancellor. This happens hardly in the article in German.

Another example for different national views, according to him, are illustrations chosen for the articles about the “Cold war”. The article in German has a sober map, the article in English shows Reagan and Gorbachev (the conflict subsiding), the Russian one a list of the block partners (with a long pro-Soviet list).

Factual errors are not the problem, according to Haber, there are some but you would find them also elsewhere. He finds it more important that Wikipedia has its flaws where everybody believes it is strong: Wikipedia is not so good in providing a first overview about a complex subject:

“It is a most sophisticated task to briefly introduce to a historical subject. Such contributions are not suited for collaborative creation.” (Zeit interview, July 8th, 2010)

Because, when several authors come and add something, the texts grow. You don’t need to be a trained historian to collect facts, but have to be skilled to present something complex.

The seminar in Vienna has checked for about 20 articles on history. The quality of the articles is divers, Haber says. But the Wikipedian who has a look at the student’s presentations has the same impression. One of Haber’s students is clearly a Che Guevara fan, I wonder what his presentation sounded like.

Articles based on works in only one language? Wikipedia finds it okay, Haber doesn't.

And the notes about national differences are based on single cases. Is it really more than incidental that the article in English mocks about the shortness of Dollfuss? Are all of the Russian Wikipedians really living in pro-Soviet nostalgia? Is it English Wikipedia that tries to suggest a harmonic end of the cold war, and not a single author who chose one of many possible illustrations? Wikipedians and non Wikipedians will have to wait until the end of the year for the complete survey, to see whether such observations have a substantial basis.

Wikipedia articles refer usually only to literature in the same language, Haber criticizes. According to him this is problematic from a scientific point of view. Actually most Wikipedia guidelines say that one should primarily refer to works in the reader’s own language. Here we come to the main questions: What is Wikipedia, what does it claims to be, and how readers use it?

Haber’s sound remarks repeat to a certain degree what Roy Rosenzweig wrote in 2006 about Wikipedia: not a lack of accuracy, but verbose speech is the problem. Like Rosenzweig Haber warns that historians should care more about Wikipedia:

“It is here where the popular knowledge on history is produced, not in expensive, voluminous essays.”