Mapping Wikipedia articles

Map of Wikipedia articles in Manukau, New Zealand  (June 2, 2013)

Last week, over a cup of coffee, I had a long talk with Mike Dickison about Wikipedia. Toward the end of our conversation we started wondering about how to map New Zealand Wikipedia articles and what such a map might reveal. We were especially interested in revealing hotspots and holes — what places are well-represented and which neighbourhoods are neglected?

There are several projects, such as Mapping Wikipedia, which map the distribution of Wikipedia articles. But sometimes you need to make your own version of something to get a feel for it. On Sunday morning I sat in the cafe at Te Papa and wrote a simple Leaflet + Flask app to fetch nearby Wikipedia articles from Geonames and plot them on a map.

An interesting property of the Geonames Wikipedia webservice is that the response contains a rank field.

rank : “indication of the popularity or relevancy of an article. The rank is an integer number from 1 for the least popular articles to 100 for the most popular articles. It is calculated from the number of links pointing to an article and the article length. The articles are more or less evenly distributed over the 100 ranks.”

After a while I started plotting the geo-tagged article as proportional symbols scaled by their rank score. Long articles with lots of inbound links are large circles; shorter articles with few inbound links are small circles. After a little experimentation, I settled on the most-excellent Stamen Design toner-light map as a subdued cartographic base.

… then I got lost for a few hours of fascinated clicking and dragging …

I want to write and release something a little more complete. But until then, here are some maps of various cities. Each of the following maps is represented at the same zoom scale. It blows me away to see the differences between places I know, noting what is represented and the things that are left out.

Wellington, New Zealand

Wellington, New Zealand  (June 2, 2013)



Masterton, New Zealand

Masterton, New Zealand  (June 2, 2013)


Christchurch, New Zealand

Christchurch, New Zealand  (June 2, 2013)


Auckland, New Zealand

Central Auckland, New Zealand  (June 2, 2013)


Waitangi, New Zealand

Waitangi, New Zealand  (June 2, 2013)


Three international examples for fun and context.

Sydney, Australia

Sydney, Australia  (June 2, 2013)


Screen Shot 2013-06-04 at 9.20.16 PM

Downtown Los Angeles, California  (June 2, 2013)


Dublin, Ireland

Dublin, Ireland  (June 2, 2013)

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