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Wikipedia edit wars revisited

Regarding & related to: Replaying history « Jon Udell.

Did you know that recently Wikipedia banned editing articles on the Church of Scientology? This reminded me of a project where Jon Udell showed an animation of  edits done to a Wikipedia page. Only through animating and visualizing the process did one really understand what had happens to a Wikipedia article over time. Each bit of phrasing, verbiage and links goes back and forth with paragraphs and sentences disappearing then reappaearing. We don’t think of editing words as inherently visual. Compared to film or music recording, writing prose or technical writing is a mental exercise, not a visual one. Yet, when shown a compelling example like Jon Udell’s we inherently just ‘get it’.

After that article was published by Jon Udell and since the wikiAnimate example coursed its way through the Internet, there hasn’t been much noticeable follow-up action. Lots of good ideas are left to wither in the Internet Archive. I don’t see a lot of Slashdot activity on visualizing wiki edits. The biggest problem Jon points out with the original wikiAnimate solution was that it would do a round trip of HTTP GET for every step shown in the animation. This loads down the network way too much and hits Wikipedia with to many HTTP GET requests. Jon Udell, ever the vigilant writer/researcher decided to revisit the original idea. Jon is a kind of pragamtist who readily adapts what already exists. He suggests a couple of ways existing projects could be adapted to the purpose of visualizing changes in text as it is written.

The Wave toolkit from Google is one example. Google Wave has the ability to “playback” conversations back and forth over a period of time. Maybe that ‘playback’ feature could be re-used by an enterprising developer using the Wave APIs. Another possible solution Jon Udell gives is FeedSync which is implemented in the Windows Live webservice. My assumption is there is some kind of flight recording like ability to track each step, then play it back. I don’t write software or develop software. I barely do scripting. however Jon Udell is big on prototyping and showing full examples of how a Social Bookmarking service like del.icio.us could be adapted to the purpose of aggregating community calendars and transforming their contents into multiple output formats for re-consumption. And he’s willing to write just enough middleware and glue code to make it work. It’s a kind of rampant re-usableism. I would characterize the philosophy as this: Sure there’s enough good ideas/products out there one must only decompose the problem to the point where you see the pattern fit well with an existing solution. That’s the true genius of a guy like Jon Udell.

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Written by Eric Likness

June 11, 2009 at 11:14 am

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