Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Wikipedia quality: Valentine's Day

The second article from the list of frequently viewed articles is "Valentine's Day". The reason this article appears in this review is the mere happenstance that the data set I'm using is for the first 23 days of February, 2008; it is obvious from the article's access pattern that the interest in this article is highly seasonal, with half of the views from February falling unsurprisingly on the 14th. The article is not currently protected, although it was semiprotected from January 29th through February 16th.

This article is another confused mass of facts strung together without a lot of rhyme or reason. The introductory paragraphs are repetitive of one another and, almost word for word, of sentences later in the article. The history section starts out with a brief discussion of the name Valentine, and then backtracks to discuss possible classical origins of the celebration. It then jumps forward to Chaucer (actually a relatively readable section). After this we are barraged with Wikipedia's trademark presentation of random tidbits of confusing information that seems as if it might be related, but figuring out how is challenging. After reaching a brief comment about North American elementary schools, we are thrown back once again to the Middle Ages and left there, while we go seeking for meaning in other cultures, where "other" apparently includes both North America and Europe, even though it is pretty clear that the sections before were primarily about European traditions to begin with.

This is another typical Wikipedia article. The history is presented in a very disorganized manner and some of the items shoehorned into the history are not historical at all. Some of the historical items are presented with insufficient context to understand why they are mentioned in the article. In general, the cultural significance of the holiday is not well-explained, nor is the evolution of the manner of observance even in western Europe and North America discussed in any coherent manner. Clear evidence of "dartboard editing" is visible: the article looks very much as if various editors have thrown darts at it with their personal favorite facts about Valentine's Day attached to them, without any real regard as to where those darts stuck to the article. Clearly an article grossly in need of a complete top-to-bottom rewrite. There's also evident problems with systemic bias, as the article focuses almost entirely on Europe and North America, touching on other cultures only briefly and in a very scattershot way.

Grade: D+
Viewed: 1.1 million times on February 14th