US presidential election 2008

Yesterday was the culmination of months of excitement and anticipation. I always follow the US presidential elections with more fervour than Dutch elections. Apart from the obvious relevance of the former for world politics they have a high entertainment value.

Here is small recap of moments in which Wikipedia played a major role in informing the public about the candidates (click image for larger version):

Here is an even larger version.

See also earlier post on Sarah Palin.

Several Wikipedians worked hard yesterday to keep the article on the 2008 US election on the English Wikipedia up to date. For example this diagram underwent almost 50 revisions in less than a day.

The history page of the diagram (scroll down) with 50 thumbnails of all revisions forms an unintentional timeline.

And many people used the article as information source:


But it could have been more people.

While examining the page request log files for election night I noticed that these were considerably smaller than usual for several hours before 10 PM EST (3 AM GMT)  . The only explanation I could think of was that half of the world wide web surfing community was watching CNN instead of working their keyboards. Unlikely but what else to make of it?

Today Brion blogged about the real explanation: a technical problem made our servers much less responsive for a couple of hours, unfortunately exactly at one of those rare moments in history that formed the apotheosis of a political paradigm shift, about which historians will write for years to come, and for which journalists approach us right now, seeking to evaluate our role. Kudoos to WMF technical staff for fixing it asap.

Update I

The following diagram shows again visitors for the Wikipedia article on “US presidential election 2008”, this time in English, German, French, Spanish, Japanese, Dutch, Polish, Italian and Russian.

Note how peaks in visits differ in time. Most West Europeans only heard the news a couple of hours later, when they woke up.

Note also that almost 3 times as many Dutch speaking people (includes half of Belgians) requested the article than all Russian speaking people together. One reason is broadband internet coverage in Netherlands is over 80%, nearly everyone uses internet. But also Dutch interest in world affairs and particularly US politics is huge.

Update II

Here is one more chart. This chart plots page views for articles about Barack Obama (= with “Barack Obama” -or transcripts in other languages- in the title) for several languages.

Note how many more French than German speaking people looked at a Wikipedia article about Barack Obama while many more German than French speaking people looked at the article that described the ongoing election (see chart above).

Here are two data files for those who want to do more analysis:
Page request log that was used for above chart,
with hourly figures per language per title (1 Sep-6 Nov).
Extract from the previous file with lines with 1000+ requests (English),
or 100+ requests (other languages).

This entry was posted in Nice Charts, Wikimedia View(er)s. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to US presidential election 2008

  1. Piotrus says:

    Is there any way of identifying the country of origin (who’s reading the articles and when)…or are we restricted to which language of Wikipedia are those articles being read in?

  2. Erik says:

    We do not have a way to identify country of origin right now, but might have it soon. Antonio José Reinoso Peinado has submitted code that allows ip to geo translation for Mediawiki using a free MindMax database of ip location info.

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