William Beutler on Wikipedia

David Petraeus’ Big Month

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on June 28, 2010 at 8:34 am by William Beutler

In the views of many, Wikipedia tends toward frivolity. After all, the concept of Wikigroaning assumes that articles on pop culture subjects will be given less attention than articles on weighty subjects. While Wikipedia does include plenty of material that Britannica could and would never address, I’ve pointed out before that this isn’t always the case.

Here’s another reason to retain your faith in humanity, and this time not just Wikipedia’s contributors but also its visitors: this month’s traffic to the Wikipedia article about Gen. David Petraeus. He was in the news twice this month, and for very different reasons. First, on June 15, Petraeus fainted while testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee. It’s just the kind of TMZ DC-ready story that gets attention, including video, which always helps. Indeed, the story caused traffic on his Wikipedia article to spike.

But as the chart below indicates, that was only about a tenth of the traffic to his page once President Obama nominated him to replace Gen. Stanley McChrystal as the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, following the latter general’s unsolicitous remarks about the Obama administration in Rolling Stone magazine. Perhaps this does not reveal too much, as this is undoubtedly the bigger news story, but it is also a much more complicated one, and at least indicates that no matter how many articles about Pokemon characters Wikipedia may hold, people can still find what’s important.

As for the fact that the top day for traffic to McChrystal’s Wikipedia article this month nearly doubled the traffic on Petraeus’ top day, well, I’ll let you judge that for yourself.

Snapshot of traffic to Wikipedia article about David Petraeus, June 2010.

Snapshot of traffic to Wikipedia article about David Petraeus, June 2010.

Traffic statistics courtesy User:Henrik.