the edmontonian: statistics

When I received the email from Jeff & Sally informing me that the edmontonian would soon be ending, I was shocked. I didn’t see it coming. Yesterday was the final day, and I’m still sad about it! I know they’ll be back at some point, but the edmontonian itself is no more. I’m glad I got to interview the duo about the decision, but I also wanted to do a tribute post of sorts. Fortunately, I knew right away what it should be – statistics!

The following statistics cover the edmontonian from the very first post on June 15, 2009 up to but not including the announcement on August 29, 2011.

  • Number of posts: 1572
  • Number of words written: 532,595
  • Number of comments: 3865

That works out to an average of 2.8 posts per day. Here’s what the breakdown looks like per month:

As you can see they posted slightly more at the beginning and then settled into a steady rhythm. The most posts came in July 2009 (perhaps due to the airport debate) while the fewest came in December 2009. The monthly average was 58.2 posts.

Here’s the breakdown by time of day:

Most entries were posted between 10am and 12pm, with another spike between 3pm and 4pm. A significant number of the edmontonian’s posts were headlines, which Jeff often posted mid-morning, so the graph doesn’t really surprise me. This word cloud shows you just how much of a fixture the headlines were at the edmontonian:

That was generated by including all 1572 post titles. If you remove those two words, you get this word cloud:

I didn’t realize how prominently the time of year was featured until I went through this exercise. It shows up in the tags as well. Very interesting! The average length of a post title was 29 characters or 5 words, with the longest being 30 words (fittingly that post was among the shortest for content, containing only images). This one was also quite long at 28 words.

One of my favorite things about the edmontonian was their willingness to link to other stuff. They linked a lot. In total, they posted 17,416 unique links! Of those, 2217 were links to their own stuff. A significant chunk of the rest went to local media. Here are the domains they linked to more than 100 times:

  • (3170)
  • (2217)
  • (1551)
  • (983)
  • (768)
  • (587)
  • (457)
  • (349)
  • (345)
  • (342)
  • (297)
  • (272)
  • (266)
  • (241)
  • (238)
  • (224)
  • (204)
  • (196)
  • (191)
  • (181)
  • (168)
  • (121)
  • (110)

The average length of a post at the edmontonian was 2109 characters or 399 words. The longest was 2135 words. Here’s what a word cloud of all the post content looks like:

All Edmonton, all the time.

Without a doubt, the edmontonian was good at generating a discussion about the things happening in our city. I think it’s safe to say that a lot of that discussion probably took place off the blog (they’ve posted more than 8500 tweets) but I’m still impressed by the number of comments they amassed (an average of 2.5 per post). I would have loved their numbers during my first three years of blogging! This post had the most comments at 96.

These statistics are interesting, but of course they don’t reflect all the passion and hard work that Jeff & Sally have put into the edmontonian over the past three years. They’ve set the bar high for local blogs!

Students using Wikipedia

Post ImageWikipedia has become pretty popular in the last couple years, and I am sure that most students have at least seen the site, even if they don’t use it regularly. I think the online encyclopedia is an excellent resource, full of really great information. I also think it should be treated like any other resource, whether online or offline – with caution. That said, I don’t think there’s any reason students should not use it. An intern at CNET thinks otherwise:

Wikipedia is one of the Internet’s latest additions to the information revolution. More importantly, it’s the reason I was able to finish my massive second-semester AP English research final project in less than 45 minutes.

As the deadline loomed, I knew there was no way I would be able to sort through thousands of Google search results or go to the library to research while simultaneously performing other vital homework completion functions like talking online, reading celebrity gossip and downloading music. So I did what any desperate, procrastinating student would do–I logged on to Wikipedia, pulled up the entries on Renaissance literature and filled in the gaps until I had a presentable product.

Until recently, many kids in my high school, myself included, used Wikipedia without questioning the integrity of its content. Before Colbert highlighted the unreliability of the site’s information, I doubt many people even realized it isn’t an authoritative, credible source.

So please take my advice, students: Wikipedia is a great place to find out about local bands or start doing research. However, before including Wikipedia information in a term paper or using Wikipedia entries to study for exams, make sure you support your findings with more legitimate sources.

So let me get this straight – you’re an advanced placement English student, with a major research project, and you’re waiting until the last minute? Then you rely solely on Wikipedia entries and a few blanks you filled in? As one student to another, I hope you failed. And are you really so unable to think for yourself that you just assume Wikipedia is the be all end all of accurate information? Pretty sad it takes a comedian on television to teach you that it isn’t.

Wikipedia has been found to be just as accurate as Britannica (granted, I would like to see some additional studies back this up). The difference is that Britannica entries are shorter and contain a neutral perspective, while Wikipedia entries can be longer, include multiple perspectives, links to other resources, pictures and other multimedia, and much more. Wikipedia is also able to offer a much wider range of topics, including some very specific articles on niche subjects. There’s no reason to think that Wikipedia can’t be as comprehensive or accurate as traditional encyclopedias, though it varies from article to article. In fact, on average, I bet it is better.

I guess this really isn’t so much about whether students should use Wikipedia or not – to me, it’s clear they should. The point that needs to be made is that students always need to find multiple sources for information they want to use, and they’ve always got to add something extra. Even in a research paper, a little commentary and anaylsis will help your paper rise to the top of the pile when the time comes for it to be graded.

Don’t use only Wikipedia, but don’t be afraid to use it in addition to your other resources either.

Read: CNET

Giving credit where credit is due

Post ImageIf there is one thing that was drilled into my head in the last 8 years of my education, first in high school and then University, it is to always cite your sources. No matter if they are actually quoted from or not, if you used a source while researching something, cite it. Like so much of what I have learned at University however, that’s simply not the way it works in the real world. Case in point, a recent article on podcasting titled “Podcasting at a business near you”. It was written by Alex Dobrota, and published in the Globe and Mail on July 6th. Here’s an excerpt from the beginning:

Podcasting, which involves the distribution of personalized audio or video clips over the Internet to computers, laptops or digital audio players such as iPods, is becoming a new medium of communication in the corporate world. It’s being used to replace internal memos, blogs, e-mails and even trade shows. The up-and-coming technology is cost-efficient — in some cases, it requires little more than a microphone and a computer. And, as a marketing tool, it holds the potential of reaching a young and savvy audience, experts say.

Maybe the problem is that a journalist can simply put “experts say” and get away with it. In any case, I do believe I should be cited as a source for that entire paragraph. You see, Mr. Dobrota called me at around 1:30 PM on June 22nd to ask me some questions about podcasting (I remember this exactly because it was just moments after I got back to the office after the Oilers Tribute Event). He made it seem like I was being interviewed, which isn’t all that unsual given the publicity Paramagnus has received in the last few months. Evidently I was wrong. He started out asking what podcasting was, and the follow-up questions he asked made it seem as though he really didn’t have any idea what was so special about it, or why it was different than streaming audio.

After about ten minutes of covering the basics, he started asking questions about why businesses would get into podcasting, or if they already were. I mentioned the well-known case of IBM. I also said that basically, podcasting is great for businesses because they get an excellent return on investment – it costs very little to get going, and you can reach a huge audience fairly easily. I also mentioned that it was a great way for old stodgy businesses to seem hip and cool with the younger iPod carrying generation. Sounds kind of like the excerpt I mentioned above doesn’t it? Yep I thought so too.

I actually emailed Mr. Dobrota on July 1st, to ask if he had written the article. I never did get a reply from him, which makes this all the more aggravating.

Maybe there’s lots of reasons why he and other journalists can simply put “experts say”. You know, word count, page layout, that sort of thing. I just can’t help but think though, that with all the fuss about the blogosphere being a place full of unsubstantiated rumors, we’re missing that our so-called “mainstream media” don’t follow the rules either. Perhaps we should force journalists to publish a blog, properly citing their references, linking where appropriate? I don’t think it’s a bad idea. It might even have saved Dan Rather his job.

At the very least, had Mr. Dobrota kept a blog with his sources and references properly detailed, I might still have some respect for him.

Read: Globe and Mail