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Plots for Wikipedia "decline" post
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Plots for Wikipedia "decline" post

For the post draft, go to

File explanations

Here is an explanation of the most important files in this repository:

  • data/ contains Wikipedia Views pageview exports.
  • google_trends_mj/ contains Google Trends CSV exports where each musicians is plotted alongside Michael Jackson. This is the version of exports that was actually used.
  • google_trends/ contains Google Trends CSV exports where each file is part of a "chain" containing two musicians running down the list of musicians. If the musicians are A, B, C, D, then this directory has the files 'A and B', 'B and C', and 'C and D'. This is was not used in the final analysis.
  • old_data/ contains some miscellaneous data files that were used when experimenting.
  • is the plotting file for pageviews. The list of plots can be found here.
  • is a listing of files in data, used for easier access in
  • is the plotting file for comparing the Google Trends and Wikipedia Views data.

Exporting CSVs

Wikipedia Views

Here are the steps used to export the CSVs used from Wikipedia Views.

  1. Go to This is the "Multiple tags and months" option from the top menu.

  2. Select a tag. For this example we choose "Colors".

  3. Select the "Check this to simultaneously select all months excluding the current month" checkbox.

  4. Click "Submit". You will get a table that has three columns: Month, Views of pages with tag Colors, and Percentage.

  5. Click on the word "Colors" in the middle column. This will take you to This page depends on the tag used. You will now see a table with more columns, one for each color, as well as the "Total" column.

  6. Scroll down, to find the link that says "Show technical settings (for advanced users only)". Click to reveal the options; I think this requires JavaScript.

  7. Go to where it says "Enter the format in which you want statistics to be displayed". Choose "CSV: Month and number of views separated by pipe delimiter (|); each line for a different month".

  8. Scroll up and click "Submit" again. You will get a page that looks like this:

    Month|Views of page Black|Views of page Blue|Views of page Brown|Views of page Green|Views of page Grey|Views of page Orange|Views of page Purple|Views of page Red|Views of page Violet|Views of page White|Views of page Yellow|Total|Percentage
    (More rows here...)

    (Technical note: Wikipedia does not allow a pipe character in page titles: "A pagename cannot contain any of the following characters: # < > [ ] | { } _ (which all have special meanings in wiki syntax)". This makes them particularly attractive to use as delimiters.)

  9. Copy the page and paste into a local file and save.

  10. Press the back button in your browser.

  11. Under "Enter the device type for which you are interested in pageviews", select "Mobile web", and hit "Submit" again. Repeat step 9. Do the same for "Mobile app".

Exporting Google Trends data

Google Trends allows export of trends as CSV. Example; click on the three dots on the upper right of the plot and select "CSV". This is pretty useful, but there are some limitations:

  • All data points are integers. This means that if the range of values is large, the smaller values might just appear as "0".
  • You can only graph ~5 trends at a time.
  • Each time you plot a trend, the data points gets normalized so that 100 is assigned to the highest value among all the trend lines. This means that when looking at two plots, the numbers don't mean the same things unless the peak in each plot is the same.

To get around these limitations, we did the following:

  • We exported two trends at a time.
  • Each export included Michael Jackson, so that we could use that as a common "scale". In particular, within each export, we divide by the maximum Michael Jackson value, so that in every export the maximum Michael Jackson value is assigned 1.
  • We only exported the data starting in the end of September 2011 (last 5 years). In particular, this means that the trend for Michael Jackson is fairly stable, and we avoid the huge spike in traffic on account of his death.

Note that because of the ambiguity of the word "Pitbull", for Pitbull only we used the "rapper" version of the search term instead of the generic search term.

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