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IBM Math News

History Flow Shows How Wiki Articles Evolve 117

Posted by Zonk
from the shows-border-wars-between-wiki-thugs dept.
teslatug writes "IBM has released a preliminary alpha version of its History Flow Visualization Application that shows how collaboratively created documents evolve. The tool is written in Java and it's available for download along with plugins for MoinMoin and MediaWiki. They have some interesting screenshots of the Wikipedia articles on abortion, Brazil, and love."
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History Flow Shows How Wiki Articles Evolve

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  • Here's an Idea (Score:5, Informative)

    by great throwdini (118430) on Monday March 28, 2005 @01:46AM (#12064017)

    Instead of linking simply to the download page and the screenshots, give people a chance to RTFA and link to the History Flow Visualization Application [ibm.com]'s overview document.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    the rapid spike in my documents before their deadline.
  • Huh? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 28, 2005 @01:48AM (#12064029)
    The screen shots are so poor they look like some geological data.

    Can any tell if there is going to be an earthquake soon?

    • by gl4ss (559668)
      they're read from left to right.

      different colors represent different paragraphs.

      not that bad, but not that innovative imho. shows which parts get changed most I suppose still, so shows which parts of the document you should treat as most controversial.
    • http://earthquake.usgs.gov/eqinthenews/2005/usweax / [usgs.gov]

      Magnitude 8.2 - NORTHERN SUMATRA, INDONESIA
      2005 March 28 16:09:37 UTC
      Preliminary Earthquake Report
      U.S. Geological Survey, National Earthquake Information Center
      World Data Center for Seismology, Denver

      A great earthquake occurred at 16:09:37 (UTC) on Monday, March 28, 2005. The magnitude 8.2 event has been located in NORTHERN SUMATRA, INDONESIA. (This event has been reviewed by a seismologist.)
  • by thundercatslair (809424) on Monday March 28, 2005 @01:48AM (#12064030)
    This program is interesting to look at for a little while, but can it do anything useful? I don't really see a need to see the history of a wiki visually.
    • by shadowmatter (734276) on Monday March 28, 2005 @03:19AM (#12064382)
      From the Overview page on alphaWorks:

      The patterns revealed by History Flow Visualization show such information as spacing by date; occurrances of vandalism; authorship; growth; and persistence.

      It seems like a good tool for inspecting the history of a document at-a-glance, but you're right -- for more details, there is no substitute for a commit log.

      Could be useful, however, in environments such as CVS or Subversion across sets of files... Hmmm.

      - shadowmatter
  • but i can see love. The link that says love i can't read the screenshot. Lit just looks like lines. Can we get the actual page?
  • Heavy Metal Umlat (Score:5, Informative)

    by hatrisc (555862) on Monday March 28, 2005 @01:51AM (#12064046) Homepage
    Heavy Metal Umlat [infoworld.com] is a very interesting look at the history of a Wiki page. Worth checking out.
    • Re:Heavy Metal Umlat (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Raul654 (453029) on Monday March 28, 2005 @02:21AM (#12064165) Homepage
      I had the great pleasure of showing that video to David Gerard, the principal author of Heavy Metal Umlaut. He was floored, and thought it was the greatest thing he ever saw :)
    • evil linkage (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SuperBanana (662181)
      a very interesting look at the history of a Wiki page. Worth checking out.

      A guy loads the Heavy Metal Umlat page v1.0 and steps through the hundreds of versions while talking in a nerdy voice and laughing about attempts at using unicode and LaTeX for rendering the band name Spinal Tap. He provides a near monotone commentary to what is very obviously changing in the page. "Oh, look at that, someone added something. Fascinating."

      That was neither interesting, nor worth checking out, and I hold you person

      • Uh, that video has audio commentary? Glad I didn't turn my speakers on...
      • Re:evil linkage (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Scrameustache (459504)
        A guy loads the Heavy Metal Umlat page v1.0 and steps through the hundreds of versions while talking in a nerdy voice [...] He provides a near monotone commentary

        That's redundant. I wish I could edit that paragraph...

        That was neither interesting, nor worth checking out, and I hold you personally responsible for the 5 minutes of my life I wasted on it.

        I found that clip very interresting, but I now wasted about a minute of my time replying to a "waah-waah I didn't find this as interrestnig as you so you
      • assuming this is not an attempt at dry humor, you could have stopped it after the first 30 seconds or so. you have only yourself to blame for burning 5 minutes.
    • Evil Flash! Hsssss
    • This video is amazing. I like it very much
  • As much (Score:4, Insightful)

    by odano (735445) on Monday March 28, 2005 @01:54AM (#12064061)
    As much as I love visualizing things that aren't visual, it just doesn't seem like this application changed the data into anything useful.

    I have no idea what the evolution of those documents was before, and even after viewing the visualizations (and knowing what they mean), I still have no idea what it means about the document.
    • Re:As much (Score:5, Insightful)

      by FarHat (96381) on Monday March 28, 2005 @02:00AM (#12064085)
      Without the actual document, a graph such as this doesn't tell you anything. What it could tell you, along with the document that it is representing would be much of a document changes in any given time. Are there parts of the document that are essentially static. Parts that are static would be parts that there is little disagreement about. Parts that change a lot could be considered controversial. Heavy editing would indicate a lot of popular interest in the article, etc.
      • by shanen (462549) on Monday March 28, 2005 @02:45AM (#12064273) Homepage Journal
        You're addressing a difficult problem there. You have to decide which dimension you want to consider, and then you have to provide data that spans the dimension in a meaningful way. The samples given were apparently picked mostly for their heavy activity resulting in "pretty pictures", but that isn't a particularly relevant or significant dimension.

        My own interest would be in visualizations that identify zealots of various stripes violating the basic neutral POV philosophy. Something that would show the behavioral similarities in their behavior. I must be too interested in deviant behavior? For example, there was some recent ruckus about the "online poker" entry, where some commercial zealot was trying to use Wikipedia as free advertising to flog his poker Web sites. Before that, I remember a similar incident involving a religious crazy who wanted to use Wikipedia to manufacture some credibility for his cult. I'm sure there must be some tranplanted Newsgroup Charlies wandering around Wikipedia, too. (Don't look at me--I'm just a harmless grammar Nazi.)

        In practical terms, if you can identify patterns associated with such problematic behavior, it will make it much easier to create automated alarms to help people notice. However, I'm kind of skeptical about the idealistic approach of trusting people's common sense. I'm given to understand that the Simpsons is a popular program, but it is so profoundly anti-intellectual that I can't stand it at all. Then consider some of Dubya's knuckle-dragging supporters and their primitive belief systems...

        Never underestimate the power of organized knuckle-dragging.

        • The Simpsons (Score:3, Informative)

          by jesterzog (189797)

          I'm given to understand that the Simpsons is a popular program, but it is so profoundly anti-intellectual that I can't stand it at all.

          I may have misunderstood you or what you mean by anti-intellectual, but personally I've found The Simpsons to be, by far, one of the most insightful shows on TV. Once you look past the humour and the sometimes really bad (occasionally pathetic) joke, especially in more recent episodes, it's a very good satirical commentary on society. It's also not afraid to make fu

          • "I may have misunderstood you or what you mean by anti-intellectual, but personally I've found The Simpsons to be, by far, one of the most insightful shows on TV."

            Well said. The episode that convinced me that The Simpsons was a bastion of wit in a sea of drivel was when Lisa evolves a tiny civilisation in a Petri dish:

            "Oh, look," she says, peering through her microscope "There's a man nailing some papers to the cathedral door! I've invented Lutherans!!"

            Moments like these are sprinkled throughout each

        • the Simpsons is a popular program, but it is so profoundly anti-intellectual that I can't stand it at all.

          How so?
          And have you considered the possibility that the irony passed you by? Because it is (was?) a show chuck full of it.

          One of my faverite Simpsons moment was when the family goes to a self-help seminar, and as Homer turns off the car in the parking lot he says "Well, here we are at the self help seminar" (or some such), and a kid replies "What an odd thing to say..."
          See, the sentence Homer said wa
        • ...Before that, I remember a similar incident involving a religious crazy who wanted to use Wikipedia to manufacture some credibility for his cult...... ... talking about the GW Bush page?
          • Naw, Dubya doesn't read, and I'm sure that includes not reading (or writing) on Wikipedia.

            With regards to the other replies in defense of the Simpsons: The replies are so unitelligible as to practically serve as proof of my point. However, to make it more clear as I perceive it, the "heros" are apparently glorified for being non-intellectual (which brings us back to Dubya, eh?). That someone can get on a pedestal and claim to see the program from a higher intellectual perspective of sarcasm doesn't change

        • Before that, I remember a similar incident involving a religious crazy who wanted to use Wikipedia to manufacture some credibility for his cult.
          Perhaps you are thinking of Sollog [wikipedia.org]. His entry is very heavily edited.
      • I'm almost tempted to download this thing just to see how it renders Wikipedia's Xenu article.
    • Re:As much (Score:3, Informative)

      by Spoing (152917)
      1. I have no idea what the evolution of those documents was before, and even after viewing the visualizations (and knowing what they mean), I still have no idea what it means about the document.

      Go here [ibm.com] and look at the text to the right. It looks like you can 'slice' the graph (the vertical line) and see the color coded text at each point along the graph.

      A quick glance through sections would be an easy way to figure out the stability and quality of any one document and who is a good editor or writer.

  • svn blame (Score:3, Informative)

    by TrdrJoe (856523) on Monday March 28, 2005 @02:05AM (#12064105)
    Tools like "svn blame" or "cvs annotate" are much more useful; they tell you who added each line of text in your file, when they checked it in, etc.).

    Still, these tools don't let you see the history of text that has been *deleted*. A visualization like "historyflow" could be useful there
    • Re:svn blame (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Tools like "svn blame" or "cvs annotate" are much more useful; they tell you who added each line of text in your file, when they checked it in, etc.).

      In other news, scientific papers have this thing called an "abstract" so you can get a general idea of what's the paper is about without reading the whole thing.

      I think you're getting confused on the difference between "more useful" and "more detailed".

    • Re:svn blame (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gl4ss (559668)
      you don't want to see who added each line if there's 5000 people involvelved in a flame war, you just want to see which part of the document is suspect to be part of that flaming.
  • by Doomie (696580) on Monday March 28, 2005 @02:23AM (#12064180) Homepage
    It's how people greet in Northern Germany (especially Bremen). I guess it comes from "Morgen" (morning), but people say "moin-moin" pretty much all the time.

    Thank you for your attention :)
  • No MediaWiki plugin (Score:3, Informative)

    by BReflection (736785) on Monday March 28, 2005 @02:26AM (#12064189) Homepage
    There is no MediaWiki plugin available atm.
  • by jesterzog (189797) on Monday March 28, 2005 @03:05AM (#12064346) Homepage Journal

    These visualisations are quite neat. I've often wanted a word processor that would be able to do something like this. I tried writing on a private wiki at one point, but it still presents the changes between different versions very separate and discrete from each other, and from the editing, so it didn't work terribly well.

    When I write things, the text often evolves a lot over several days. I usually blurt out everything I want to say at the beginning, and then go back and edit it over and over again until it's expressed how I want it. One problem, though, is that when I go away and come back again, it's not always obvious which parts are the most volatile, and might need the most attention. It often takes a while to get back into the right mode of figuring out where the complicated parts are, and editing the document.

    Writing on paper is still very different from a word processor. It's very obvious where a lot has been crossed out and changed over and over again, and previous crossed-out versions, even if they're on paper that's been put aside, are often still visible and easily accessible during the rest of the process. In a word processor, though, nearly all of this contextual information is lost. At best it's possible to "track changes", and that particular tool is relatively simple and usually aimed at being able to see some one-off changes that someone else has made to your document.

    Beyond just tracking changes, which is a very linear representation, I'd love to be able to have some kind of visual representation surrounding the text to indicate the stability of different sections of what I've been writing.

    Some useful ideas might perhaps include different coloured backgrounds to represent the volatility of sections of text, blocks of text that get moved a lot, being able to quickly flip back to what a small section used to be (without necessarily committing to it), and so on. Perhaps even a draft mode that shoves text aside (maybe above or below), but still leaves it accessible while editing the replacement text.

    As a writing tool, it'd be a very helpful extension to any of the open source word processors out there. I bet there's a great niche market in authoring tools that current word processors really don't cater to right now.

  • by Tablizer (95088) on Monday March 28, 2005 @03:44AM (#12064461) Homepage Journal
    One step closer to objectively identifying who the wiki trolls are :-) What color of lines do they use for trolls? Toad green?
  • If it doesn't the tool is useless, if it does the tool could be used as the perfect spam filter for email instead.
  • by vhogemann (797994) <victor&hogemann,com> on Monday March 28, 2005 @06:38AM (#12064866) Homepage
    So it might be used to show progress over time on open-source projects. It would be usefull to show progress over a single project or how two projects merged, and to show wich contribuitions made it to final versions, or witch developer has more code on it.

    It should be very interesting to see it applied to big projects, like the Linux kernel or the KDE project to see how it evolved from the number of contribuitions and devellopers, and to see how long each contribuition survived unnaltered on the source.

    It could prove to be a very usefull tool indeed.
    • very interesting indeed!!

      if you happen to initate such a project as a plugin for History Flow that deals with FLOSS projects, or hear from an existing one, i'd be very glad to hear from it!

      i hope you'd either post a news about it or be so kind to notify me through /.

      thanx in advance
  • The author (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rexguo (555504) on Monday March 28, 2005 @09:06AM (#12065192) Homepage
    Martin Wattenberg, being the main author, also has a personal homepage that has very interesting visualisations in Java as well: Bewitched [bewitched.com]
  • by corporatemutantninja (533295) on Monday March 28, 2005 @10:07AM (#12065448)
    ...yet Slashdot passed on an opportunity to have something like this for themselves.

    The IBM researcher who created this software, Martin Wattenberg [ibm.com], also wrote some really cool tools for visualizing and navigating Slashdot threads. He said he would be happy to let Slashdot use them for free so I made an intro but the /. guys never followed up.

    • Please, the amount of work it would take to implement his tools is far less important then the amount of benifit to the reader! The slashdot editors are our gods. BOW DOWN PLEBE!!!
      • As one of the people who have been around here for a while (moderately low UID (yeah there are smaller (no, I don't always comment in LISP))), I remember a time when the Gods of /. participated in the discussions. That was before someone ate from the tree of First Post and Goats.ex. We were all more innocent back then.

        Really, things got whiney around here and I think they become weary dealing with someone always being upset about something. However, I do agree with the grandparent post about visualizati
  • by JJ (29711)
    I personally would rather see the degradation of information over time or generations of tellings. I'm presuming most people have done this in school, with one person getting the story from a written source and a sequence of people telling the story one to another and seeing how accurately the original story is retained. I had a sociology class were this was done in a myths and legends context.
  • I've been using wikis for teaching my writing class for about three years now: I have groups of students work together on writing papers. I have them write in a wiki primarily so that I can monitor the documents in process, but also to gain insight into the functioning of the group.

    I've used both PHPwiki and TikiWiki. PHPwiki has great tools for comparing versions: you can get an overview of all of the major edits (and/or minor edits) and then get a diff between any two particular versions. With 4 of 5

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