William Beutler on Wikipedia

“Treme” vs. “Treme (TV series)”

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on April 18, 2010 at 10:04 am by William Beutler

In more than one post on this blog I’ve written skeptically about the concept of “Wikigroaning” — the notion that important subjects sometimes have shorter articles than arguably less-important subjects that appeal to geek sensibilities. In the case of Raphael (archangel, artist or ninja turtle) and lightsaber vs. modern warfare, the complaint did not quite hold up. But I don’t mean to indicate the charge is never without basis.


With the second episode of HBO’s latest dramatic series, “Treme,” set to air this evening, I decided to compare two related Wikipedia articles — one about the New Orleans neighborhood, and the new TV drama from David Simon. What did I find?

In the first place, Treme is currently 10 Kb long while Treme (TV series) is closer to 17 Kb. On the face of it, the article about the series is substantially longer at present. And this is the case even though the former article has existed since April 2004 whereas the latter was created in March 2009.

It’s fair to say that both articles are in decent shape. The article about the neighborhood has a quality infobox featuring geographic and demographic information, and a concise History section is informative, if perhaps too concise. I compare this to the article about my neighborhood of Adams Morgan in Washington, DC, which has much more information (though fewer references to support them) and no comparable infobox of data. Each article could stand to learn something from the other.

But there is no use arguing that Treme (TV series) is not the better article. It is simply more carefully and completely written, with a more sophisticated article structure utilizing subsections for more in-depth coverage of certain aspects of the show. Plus, it has already spawned a secondary page, List of Treme episodes.

Is there a silver lining here? I think there may be. If the show becomes popular — at least popular enough to inspire a following similar to Simon’s earlier work — then it may well inspire someone or a few someones to become more interested in the neighborhood itself. To be sure, the series itself has already caused a spike of interest in the subject. And all it takes is one person to make it a personal project. If “Treme (TV series)” can do that, “Treme” will be the better for it.

Images via Wikipedia. Neighborhood photograph licensed under Creative Commons by Wikipedia contributor Infrogmation.

  1. One thing perhaps that sets this example apart from a lot of classic wikigroans is the scope of natural audience. We can groan with Raphael the artist vs. Raphael the ninja turtle because we think more people ought to know about (and know more about) the former than the latter.

    Modern warfare, similarly, is properly of concern to all modern citizens. With Treme, the neighborhood obviously has much more that ought to be said about it than the TV show. But, from what I gathered in an NPR segment about it, the point of the show is partly that the Treme setting is sort of a world unto itself–a world that more people are being exposed to through the show than directly.

  2. I think that’s true. And it looks like the Times-Picayune will be posting weekly about references from the TV show in the real Treme — explaining them to outsiders like myself who have never visited* — and that should provide quite a bit of such material in short order.

    *I will actually visit New Orleans for the first time next month, for the wedding of a native who is a big David Simon fan, so I will soon.

  3. I appreciate your thoughts about the general subject, but I think your metric is pretty worthless. Comparing two articles by their MB size or word count seems like a shallow venture to me.

    If Treme the neighborhood truly is more important in any absolute sense, then a single great paragraph about it is infinitely more valuable than any number of words about some TV show. If it isn’t “more important”, than there’s no point in comparing the articles.

    If you want to discuss systemic imbalance, than that’s important and I agree the metrics of article size works. But you can’t declare systemic problems from so few articles, so again this particular comparison is not very fruitful.

  4. Steven, I agree — and in fact, I made the same point last time w/r/t Raphael, that it’s “a mistake to assume that the quality of an article is directly correlated with the number of words contained within.”

    So I agree a single paragraph, or decent article, about the neighborhood could be “better” from a number of perspectives than even a well-developed article related to the show. From my scan that isn’t the case now, but I might do something with it (even though I time-shifted Treme for the Blazer game tonight).

    I don’t take “wikigroaning” TOO seriously, even if it does point to a possible issue — but I’ll be damned if I know how to design a system to measure it.

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