Jaron Lanier has pointed out, quite reasonably I think, that Wikipedia creates a false sense that there is a single correct version of things.

Yes, for every topic there is a discussion page, and you can click on the history page to see all successive changes to any article, but you need to actively seek those things out, and even then the information is rather buried and scattered about.

I wish there were a web client for looking at Wikipedia articles in a way that preserves all the inherent glory and messiness of their provenance. Behind the seemingly monolithic facade, any given article may well represent a fierce and often ongoing war between competing narratives — battles which are not at all evident while reading the page.

I am envisioning some sort of alternate Wikipedia client in which such roiling clusters of competing narratives are somehow made manifest, in a dynamic and truly interactive way. Mousing over highly contested sections would reveal in even greater detail the exciting dissonance that lies behind a crowd-sourced article.

Wouldn’t you want to have the option of seeing an article’s boisterous pedigree, rather than merely its misleadingly placid surface?

3 thoughts on “Wikipedigree”

  1. Surely this should be possible, a color map of the most changed parts of an article?

    Such an option would be really nifty.

    Perhaps there is a good visualisation tool for source control that might help this.

  2. Its a great idea! (If you weren’t so busy with your current prototype I’d expect to see the Java applet on your blog in the next few days 😉

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